Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Monday, 10 December 2012

EU trade agreement with Peru and Colombia backed by MEPs

MEPs have been urged to back a new trade agreement between the EU, Colombia and Peru, despite concerns from some political groups over its impact on working conditions.

The trade agreement - which will lead to a gradual removal of customs duties on exports and imports - was signed earlier this year but needs to be ratified by the European Parliament before it can take effect.

Speaking during the debate on 10 December 2012, the European Parliament's negotiator on the agreement, Portuguese centre-right MEP Mario David said it showed there was a "genuine and indisputable" commitment by the Peruvian and Colombian governments to improving the welfare of their countries.

He added that opponents of the agreement were wedded to "preconceived ideas and prejudices" and were failing to take account of current realities.

Mr David insisted that the two governments had improved dialogue with civil society and trade unions, and were doing more to protect the rights of minorities.

The agreement contains a human rights clause, meaning that any abuse of human rights by Peru and Colombia could lead to the trade liberalisation being invalidated.

But German green MEP Ska Keller warned that human rights abuses were still going unchecked, and urged the parliament to reject the agreement.

The biggest beneficiaries of removing tariffs are expected to be producers of fruit - especially bananas and grapes - and shrimp producers.

For the EU, the biggest gains are expected in the machinery, cars and chemicals sectors.

Concerns have been raised by banana growers in the EU's outermost regions - namely the Canary Islands and the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean - that they will lose out to cheaper imports from Colombia and Peru.

To mitigate the trade 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 trade agreement and the banana accompanying measures were approved during the daily voting session on 11 December 2012, despite an attempt by the left-wing GUE group to block the agreement.

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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