San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

EU-Central America set for Brussels meeting to decide future of trade talks

Negotiations between the European Union (EU) and Central America will take a decisive turn next week when all of the participants will meet in Brussels to determine, among other issues, the number of countries still in the game.

The last round of negotiations, which took place in Honduras between March 30 and April 3, was stopped after the Nicaraguan delegation presented a cooperation fund proposal without the consensus of the other four Central American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. After the other nations objected, the Nica team decided to leave the negotiations, halting the process altogether.

Nicaraguan government representatives met with Finance Minister Guillermo Zúñiga and Central Bank President Francisco de Paula Gutiérrez prior to the last round of negotiations, where they presented a proposal for the creation of a €20 billion (about $26 billion) fund. Nicaragua elevated the amount to €60 billion ($79 billion).

“This proposal needed to be studied in detail by the Central American Monetary Council (CECMCA) and Financial Ministers and Secretaries Council (COSEFIN) before it was presented (on April 1),” Zúñiga told reporters during a press conference at the Finance Ministry last week. “(The $79 billion) amount is too high. This would bring contingent debt to the (Central American) countries.”

Zúñiga, who insisted he has reservations on the viability of the fund, will meet today (April 17) with his isthmian counterparts in Guatemala where the next COSEFIN meeting is taking place. On Thursday morning, Zuñiga confirmed during a press conference that the cooperation fund will be among the items discussed at this summit.

The next round will take place April 23 and 24.

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