Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trade key issue at E.U.-LatAm summit

Tuesday was the final day of the E.U.-Latin America summit in Spain and numerous topics from climate change to immigration were debated. Yet improving economic ties and free trade became the main issue at the meetings.

One of the trade deals reached at the Madrid conference such as one between the European bloc and Central American states. That agreement- which had been stalled due to the brouhaha surrounding Manuel Zelaya’s ouster in Honduras last year- was touted by an E.U. statement as “ambitious” and “comprehensive.”

In addition, Europe and the Mercosur group will reportedly resume their free trade discussions that had been suspended six years ago. Furthermore, separate trade deals were also reached between the E.U. and Peru as well as Colombia. The pacts were praised by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who declared that multilateralism is the “most suitable method to deal with not only financial problems, but also those of the political order.”

Despite the breakthroughs there has been opposition to free trade on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly in Europe. Last week ten E.U. states including Greece and Ireland emitted a statement opposing the renewed trade talks with Mercosur. Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner warned that “protectionist” factions in Europe could hinder discussions yet French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire accused Mercosur of raising tariffs to protect local meat producers.

The Obama administration earlier this month tried to assure that prospective free trade deals with Panama and Colombia have not been ignored but that the domestic political climate was not ideal:
"We are, as President Obama said in the State of the Union, committed to our free-trade agreements with both countries but we're also facing very difficult challenges," (U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) said. "But I am absolutely here to reiterate that commitment"...

"It is our goal to bring them to Congress as soon as we can. I cannot put a timeline on that, but they're important to us," (U.S. Trade Representative Ron) Kirk said.
Image- AFP
Online Sources- AFP, AP, Reuters, LAHT, BBC News

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