by TCRN Staff

The new trade commissioner of the European Union (EU), Benita Ferrero-Waldner, will visit three Central American countries next week to promote the resumption of negotiations for an Association Agreement.

The European official will makes stops in Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica, between the 18th and 21st of January. He will be in Costa Rica on the 20th and 21st.

Negotiations between the EU and Central America as a bloc to reach an Association Agreement have been ongoing since October of 2007.

Were suspended negotiations last July in view of the coup in Honduras, as the European Commission (EC), which negotiates on behalf of the 27 EU members, has the mandate to deal with all five countries of the Central American bloc and it did not recognize the de facto government.

The Central Americans had made a “closing package” regarding the EU proposal and are awaiting their response concerning outstanding issues of great importance such as trade in bananas, sugar, meat, coffee and services.

It also remains to define what is meant by “regional” in the application of the Central American Association Agreement, a concept that has many implications.

Minister of Foreign Commerce (Comex), Marco Vinicio Ruiz, said yesterday that the visit of the European Commissioner is a great sign that the EU aims to complete negotiations before next May.

That would give time for the agreement to be signed at the summit between the EU and Latin America, scheduled for May.

Ruiz said he expects a general recognition of the new government of Porfirio Lobo in Honduras, leading to a round of talks on the 22nd of February in Brussels and a final round, scheduled for April this year to end the negotiation.