San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Central American countries sign trade, political agreement with EU

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – The European Union and Central America on Friday signed an association agreement to further political dialogue, cooperation and trade.

“The region-to-region trade deal will help establish major business opportunities for both sides,” European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said. “European exporters will save about €90 million [$114 million] on customs per year and European service providers, such as telecoms and transport, will get greater market access,” he said.

The trade section of the agreement will enter into force by early 2013, after participating countries’ legislators adopt the details of the agreement.

Once the agreement enters into force, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama will open 69 percent of existing trade in manufactured and agricultural goods and fisheries products with the EU, according to commission figures.

In 2010, the EU was Central America’s second-largest trading partner after the United States, representing almost 9.4 percent of trade. Bilateral trade in goods the same year was worth €12 billion [$15 billion].

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