EU and Andean countries "satisfied" by the course of the negotiations,
but admit that much still remains to be settled

EFE News Agency
Brussels, December 14, 2007

The European Commission (EC) and the Andean Community (CAN) agreed today that they were “satisfied” at the course of the negotiations to reach an association agreement between the two regions that could conceivably be attained early in 2009, although they admit that there are some “complicated” matters still to be settled. 

So both parties stated at the conclusion today of the second round of negotiations to reach the agreement that would strengthen Andean regional integration and the trade between the two regions, which at present amounts to over 11,900 million euros (17,200 million dollars).

The negotiations --which will rest on three basic pillars: the political, cooperation and trade--   were launched in Tarija, Bolivia last June 14 and the first round of contacts between representatives of the EU and the CAN (Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia) took place last September in Bogotá.

The negotiations over this week in Brussels were broken down into 14 working committees that discussed market access, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, intellectual property and public procurement, among other matters, and in which there was also talk about immigration, terrorism, disarmament and the war on drugs.  

"Satisfaction" and "optimism" were the terms used at the conclusion of the round by, respectively, the European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and the Colombian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Camilo Reyes, whose country occupies the Secretariat Pro Tempore of the CAN at present.

In declarations to Efe, Reyes explained that, based on the negotiating schedule prepared for 2008, he was of the opinion that “we must be very close to concluding this next year and to reaching an association agreement by early 2009.”

He went even further and added that "if only we could accomplish this by the end of 2008,” although he admitted that he was being “overly optimistic.”

None of the representatives consulted wanted to talk about agreements reached during the negotiations that ended today, except for the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, who pointed out “the defining of some paragraphs” and “coordination of positions.” 

Ferrero-Waldner made comments to this effect, as well.  She felt that the negotiations had “resulted not only in a closer rapprochement” between the two parties on certain issues, “but had even made it possible to reach agreements on provisions of the future agreement.”  

The European Commission, which received a mandate from the EU to negotiate, recalled that the agreement is negotiated "region to region" and "will help give the CAN a larger role to play in world trade by developing fuller and more stable economies capable of attracting investment.”  

The EU has over 494 million inhabitants and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 16.9 billion (million million) dollars, while the CAN has some 98 million inhabitants and a GDP of 243,000 million dollars.

According to what the Bolivian Ambassador to the EU, Cristián Inchauste, told Efe, the “intense efforts” made in the negotiations not only improved trading possibilities, but were also aimed at “catalyzing the integration process among the Andean countries,” which is one of Bolivia’s priorities. 

Despite their expressions of satisfaction, both parties acknowledged that the path to an agreement is “not free from problems;” it “will be difficult” and will call for “effort, creativity and determination,” the Commissioner declared. 

Among the “difficult issues” for negotiation cited by Reyes, is “that of immigration, which will require considerably more work and that thus far has involved “an exchange of information” about the rights of immigrants and their remittances (funds they send to their countries of origin). 

He also referred to “clauses on terrorism and disarmament” as other elements requiring negotiation “in order to determine how the countries are going to cooperate in the war against terrorism and in promoting disarmament.” 

According to the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, “there are differences on these matters and it will be necessary to fine-tune concepts.”   EFE