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EU-Central America Association Agreement

Volume 541: debated on Monday 27 February 2012

I wish to inform the House that the Government has opted in to the following measures:

(i) the Council decision relating to the proposal on the signature and provisional application of an association agreement between EU and central America.

ii) the Council decision relating to the proposal on the conclusion of the association agreement between the EU and central America.

The EU proposes to enter into an association agreement with central America. The UK supports the agreement, which covers all aspects of the bi-regional relationship. Its objectives are to strengthen political dialogue and co-operation on issues of common interest, and to boost respective trade flows and investments.

The agreement will contribute to UK security and prosperity, and to the further development of the UK’s bilateral relationships with the countries of central America and the region as a whole. Its measures are in line with the Government’s trade policy objectives on liberalisation of services and investment, as well as with the Government’s wider policy towards central America.

Following signature, those parts of the agreement in which the EU has exclusive competence will be provisionally applied. These areas are contained in part IV, the trade part. With regard to part IV, the agreement aims to eliminate high tariffs, tackle technical barriers to trade, liberalise services markets, protect EU geographical indications, open up public procurement markets, include commitments on the enforcement of labour and environmental standards and offer effective and swift dispute settlement procedures. Its measures go beyond WTO commitments and ensure a level playing field with competitors in the region. It includes robust clauses on human rights, sustainable development and international labour standards, any of which can be invoked as reason for suspension of trade preferences.

The Council decisions extend the UK’s commitments in mode 4, thus triggering the UK Justice and Home Affairs opt-in. The agreement contains obligations which fall within the scope of title V (Area of Freedom, Justice and Security) of the treaty on the functioning of the EU (TFEU), specifically those in article 49(4) on readmission. The provisions within this article, on the temporary movement of natural persons for business purposes (known as “Mode-4” trade-in services), trigger the opt-in. I believe it is in the UK’s interest to opt in to these measures, which are an integral part of our wider approach on trade and support our other commitments in services and investment liberalisation.