The European Union and the countries of Central America will begin a new round of negotiations focusing on the commercial aspects of an Association Agreement in Brussels this week, in which Panama will participate for the first time as an official party rather than as an observer.
The EU approved last week a change in the mandate for its negotiators in order to include Panama in the discussions, following a formal request from that country, as well as an assent by Panama to accept all of the points already agreed upon in the negotiations by its Central American partners Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica y Nicaragua.
The EU also agreed to promote the inclusion of Panama in the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA).
The upcoming session will focus strictly on commercial topics, as this is the pillar of the agreement that still needs work – the chapters on cooperation and political dialogue will not be addressed on this occasion – in order to have the agreement concluded before the European –Latin American summit next May 18 in Madrid.
The principal commercial points to close are access to the European market for Central American agricultural products (above all, the tariff to be imposed on bananas and sugar) as well as the agreement´s chapter on sustainable development.
In this area, the EU is proposing that the principle of productive and dignified employment for all be recognized as a key element in the promotion of globalization and international commerce, according to a draft provided to the newswire EFE.
At the same time, the EU is proposing that the parties comply with the basic conventions of the International Labor Organization, and that multilateral environmental agreements and standards be maintained.
For its, part, Central America will be seeking increased cooperation from the EU to reinforce its capacity to apply environmental and labor legislation.
Another topic on which agreement should be reached is whether the parties should be obligated to undertake a review of the impact that the commercial agreement could have on sustainable development, as the EU is requesting, or whether the agreement should only recognize the obligation to consider such a review, which is the Central American position.