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House of Commons Hansard
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Free Trade Agreement (Colombia)
12 November 2009
Volume 499
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14. What recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on a mandate for the European Commission to negotiate a free trade agreement with Colombia. [299503]

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With permission I should like to answer this question in conjunction with Questions 15 and 16.

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Order. I think I am right in saying that Question 15 has been withdrawn—the grouping is with Question 16.

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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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16. What recent discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on a mandate for the European Commission to negotiate a free trade agreement with Colombia. [299505]

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Negotiations between the European Union and the Community of Andean Nations were launched in 2007. The mandate was last revised in December 2008 when, because the Andean nations could not agree a common position—[Interruption.]

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Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. There are far too many rather noisy private conversations taking place. It is pretty rude and I am sorry to say that it includes those on the Front Bench, and that must stop.

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The mandate was last revised in 2008 when, because the Andean nations could not agree a common position, Colombia and Peru asked the European Commission to negotiate a multi-party trade agreement with interested Andean countries. Ecuador remains an observer.

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I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but will he recognise that this House has a strong and proud tradition of supporting free trade union movements, especially when it is called Solidarity? Will he impress upon his European Union counterparts that we cannot enter into a free trade agreement with any country that does not allow free trade union movements?

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Of course, free trade unions are a fundamental tenet of any civilised society. That is why we have successfully pressed the European Commission to include a human rights clause in the agreement with Colombia and Peru, which, if breached, would enable the agreement to be suspended.

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Mr. Stephen Hepburn. Not here.