Fisheries Liberalisation Closer as EU, Colombia, Peru Initial FTA
Negotiators from the EU, Colombia and Peru last Thursday initialled a comprehensive trade agreement, paving the way for the formal signing and ratification of the accord.
Talks on the deal, which will ultimately liberalise all trade in industrial and fisheries products among the participating countries, were concluded nearly a month ago. A lengthy legal review of the agreement text occurred before its initialling; a further detailed translation process is necessary before the formal signature. Officials are hopeful that the agreement could then be ratified and enter into force, as early as the beginning of 2012.
The FTA covers manufactured products, agriculture goods, services, and investment, and also includes provisions on intellectual property, trade remedies, and competition rules. According to the EU, when the accord enters into force, 80 percent of industrial goods trade will be liberalised with Peru, and 65 percent Colombia. Brussels foresees expanded market access for exporters from all three parties in sectors such as fruits and vegetables, fisheries, automobiles, electronics and machinery, wines and spirits, along with services like telecoms and banking.
Intellectual property provisions in the agreement do not extend to pharmaceutical test data exclusivity periods in Peru and Colombia - an issue that has been the subject of heated debate in the EU's FTA negotiations with India. They do, however, go beyond WTO requirements on some issues related to the enforcement of intellectual property protections.
Although the agreement is moving towards ratification, opponents of the deal have not accepted defeat. Earlier this month, 200 civil society organisations signed a manifesto against the FTA. While some NGOs object to Colombia's human rights standards, Colombian dairy producers fear they will be unable to compete against highly subsidised EU dairy farmers.
Peruvian media report that in anticipation of the FTA's entry into force, European businesses are already considering investing in Peru, ranging from brick and ceramic manufacturers keen to take advantage of cheaper energy to construction firms targeting both domestic sales and export opportunities.
FTA negotiations among the EU, Colombia, and Peru started in 2007. The prospect of imminent entry into force of the pact may influence support in Washington for Congressional ratification of the US's own deal with Colombia, which was first negotiated in 2006 but has since languished amidst objections by Democratic lawmakers about labour rights in Colombia. If the EU-Colombia-Peru accord goes ahead first, it may enable European companies to secure a toehold in the Colombian market at the expense of their US competitors.
The full FTA text can be viewed here.
ICTSD Reporting; "Colombia and Peru closer to implementing the free trade agreement with the EU," MercoPress: South Atlantic News Agency, 27 March 2011; "More European investors eye Peru," Andina, 27 March 2011; "Negotiators initial trade agreement between the EU, Colombia and Peru," European Commission, 24 March 2011.