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EU Association Agreements

Volume 453: debated on Monday 27 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development (1) what steps the Government are taking to ensure that the Association Agreements the EU will begin negotiating in January 2007 with Latin American countries are consistent with the UK’s development policy; (101704)

(2) what assessment he has made on the progress of the negotiations on the EU-Latin America Association Agreements; and if he will make a statement;

(3) what assessment he has made of the impact the Association Agreements which the EU will begin negotiating in January 2007 with Latin American countries will have on efforts to meet the millennium development goals in that region;

(4) what discussions (a) he and (b) his officials have had with (i) the European Commission and (ii) other EU member states on plans for impact assessments for Latin American countries to be carried out on the EU-Latin America Association Agreements.

The UK Government continue to closely assess negotiations on the various Association Agreements (AA) proposed between the EU and Latin America (EU-LA). Progress towards an EU-Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and since July, Venezuela) AA has been slower than the UK would have wished, though ultimately the overall substance is significantly more important than the timing. The UK remains committed to an ambitious, balanced and mutually beneficial agreement, and believe it will be important for our strategic partnership with Latin America. Agreements between EU-Andean Community (CAN) and EU-Central America (CA) are in the formative stages of negotiations, having been launched earlier in the year. The European Commission is expected to adopt draft negotiating directives on future agreements with CA and CAN early in December. We will have the further opportunity to discuss these shortly thereafter in various EU-LA working groups in Brussels, which we regularly attend.

The Community of Andean Nations (CAN) and the Central America countries (CA) have been deepening their relations with the EU over recent years. At the EU-Latin America Caribbean (LAC) Ministerial Summit, held in Guadalajara in 2004, the EU committed to starting negotiations for Association Agreements with both the Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama), and with the Andean Community (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela—Venezuela withdrew from CAN in April 2006, and has since joined Mercosur). These commitments were made with the proviso that the respective Latin American regions first undertake a satisfactory level of regional economic integration, to be evaluated by joint assessment exercises.

Following a positive outcome of the joint assessment exercise on regional economic integration carried out with Central America, the May 2006 Vienna EU-LAC Ministerial Summit agreed to launch negotiations for an Association Agreement between the EU and the Central American countries. The draft negotiating directives for an EU-CA Association Agreement are expected to be ready for discussion at the Commission’s Latin American working group, AMLAT, in December.

DFID has been supporting small enterprises and rural producers in Central America to prepare for their participation in the negotiations. DFID has also been working locally with the European Commission and International Financial Institutions to ensure their support to small enterprises will enable them to participate fully in the trade opportunities the negotiations will present. This will help ensure that the increased trading between the two regions will actively contribute to efforts to meet the millennium development goals in Central America.

In South America, the Government of Chile and the EU will be holding their first meeting with civil society representatives later this month in the framework of the Chile-EU Association Agreement.

The EU-LAC Joint Declaration issued at the Vienna Summit in May this year reiterated the importance placed on:

“enhanced cooperation between both regions in order to achieve higher levels of social cohesion, and it welcomed the Joint EU Statement on “The European Consensus on Development” which puts poverty eradication at the core of EU Development cooperation, in the context of sustainable development, including the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and which applies to all developing countries”.

In regard to the Andean Community, the respective joint assessment concluded that the level of CAN regional economic integration was not sufficient to progress to similar negotiations. It was therefore recommended at the Vienna Summit that the CAN and EU should hold further meetings to reach agreement on clearly defined areas of cooperation. A subsequent High Level Meeting between the Commission and the remaining CAN countries in July, concluded that sufficient clarity on areas of cooperation had been reached, and the next step should be for the representatives of CAN and the Commission to initiate internal consultations and undertake the necessary steps allowing for the launch of negotiations for an Association Agreement between the EU and the Andean Community.