International Trade Committee backs EU trade deal with Colombia and Peru

28-11-2012 — / — Parliament should give its consent to a proposed EU trade deal with Columbia and Peru, said the International Trade Committee on Tuesday. MEPs welcomed the countries’ commitments to specific labour and environmental targets, set out in binding roadmaps, as requested by European Parliament in the run-up to the deal.

“This agreement will greatly enhance economic activity both in the EU and in Colombia and Peru, contributing to economic growth and the prosperity of our peoples. We are pleased that both countries have responded to our request by undertaking to make measurable improvements in human, labour and environmental rights. The internationally recognized lines taken by their current presidents show both are committed to achieving a higher level of development. This is a legacy which I am sure future generations will not forget! And we have contributed to it”, said rapporteur Mario David (EPP, PT) after the vote.

The recommendation that Parliament give its consent was approved with 20 votes in favour, 4 against and 1 abstention.

What was agreed?

After the agreement enters into force, the parties will gradually remove customs duties on exports and imports. It also liberalises services and public procurement markets. In Colombia and Peru, the biggest beneficiaries of removing tariffs will be producers of fruit (especially bananas and grapes) and shrimp. For the EU, the biggest gains are expected in machinery, cars and chemicals.

Peru and Colombia supply only 0.6% of the EU’s imports, but the EU nonetheless sees the deal as a stepping stone to the larger market of Latin America.

The deal will reduce EU import tariffs on bananas, which prompted concern among rival banana growers in the EU’s “outermost regions”, such as the Canary Islands, Guadeloupe and Martinique, that their exports to the EU could be crowded out by those of Columbia and Peru. To meet this concern, accompanying “stabilisation mechanisms for bananas” were negotiated and approved earlier by the International Trade Committee, but still need Parliament’s final approval.

Human rights clauses

Amendments suggesting that Parliament should withhold its consent were rejected in committee, although a minority remains deeply concerned about Columbia’s human rights record and in particular the murder of trade unionists, failures to protect the rights of indigenous people and breaches of human rights in the mining sector.

This trade deal therefore includes a heading on “Trade and Sustainable development”, which commits parties to use trade in a way that promotes human rights and environmental standards. The governments of Colombia and Peru have also made specific commitments to implement the human rights clause, by presenting binding and specific roadmaps to the European Parliament.

What next?

The deal was signed by all parties on 26 June 2012 but still has to be endorsed by Parliament as a whole, probably in a plenary vote in December 2012. It will apply provisionally following a formal decision in the Council, but to be concluded formally, it must be ratified by all EU member states.

In the chair: Daniel Caspary (EPP, DE)

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