Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Monday, 10 December 2012

MEPs back Latin American trade agreement

The chair of the European Parliament's International Development Committee has urged MEPs to block a new association agreement between the EU and Central American countries.

Speaking during the debate on 10 December 2012, French Green MEP Eva Joly said the agreement would "enshrine deep unfairness between the EU and Central America".

The agreement is designed to boost trade between the two blocs by removing various tariffs and customs barriers. The countries covered by the agreement are Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

It was concluded in May 2010 but needs to be ratified by the European Parliament before it can come into force.

Central American countries will benefit from greater open access to the EU market, with European consumers expected to benefit from lower prices.

Many European farmers have opposed the agreement, fearing that they may be undercut by cheaper imports.

Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht insisted the agreement would also support democracy and the rule of law in Central American countries and would "radically upgrade" relations between the EU and Latin America.

Ms Joly lamented the fact that the agreement contained no reference to environmental and social standards.

She was backed by Portuguese communist MEP Cristina Zuber who said it was an example of "neo-colonialism of developing regions, plundering their natural resources".

But Spanish centre-right MEP Francisco Millan Mon said it was a natural progression, given that the EU had supported democracy and stability in Latin American ever since a series of civil wars that affected the region during the 1980s.

To mitigate the association agreement, the EU has put forward so-called "banana accompanying measures", which give financial support to regions that may be affected by new trade liberalisation rules.

The committee's report and the banana accompanying measures were approved during the daily voting session on 11 December 2012.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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