Beware EUropeans bearing gifts

31Jul07

After the emerging disaster of CAFTA, Central American countries recently launched into a new round of trade negotiations, this time with the European Union. The one surprise in the announcement is that it is scheduled to take place over two and half years, and not the one year that some were predicted.

Though some in Nicaragua think an agreement with the EU will ‘counter-balance’ CAFTA, the starting point for the EU’s Agreement of Association with Central America is WTO-plus – taking de-regulation beyond even that allowed by the World Trade Organisation.

A good history of the official relations between the EU and Central America was summarised in an article in the Jerusalem Post (EU and Central America community negotiate new Agreement) . It contains useful figures about trade, and the previous agreements between the regions. One organisation which has been gearing up for the negotiations is the Central American Women’s Network. The April edition of their newsletter Agenda contains several articles on the likely impact of an agreement, particularly on women, though their focus is on the involvement of civil society, rather than outright rejection of an agreement.

Besides the agreement with Central American, the European Union is in the middle of negotiating a sackful of bilateral agreements with former colonies. Many organisations are keeping their eyes on these dubious deals. One of the best is bilaterals.org, which does what it says on the tin – it has several pieces on the European Partnership Agreements, which are meant to be concluded next year. The World Development Movement are currently asking individuals to contact the Douglas Alexander, the new Secretary of State for International Development, to say the UK must take steps now to stop unfair EU trade deals.

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