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EU-Central America free trade deal part of crisis exit strategy

EU-Central America free trade deal part of crisis exit strategy
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The European Union and Central American states have agreed to open up their markets to each other. The deal is set to be formally concluded by EU and Central American heads of state at a summit in Madrid this Wednesday.

European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said stronger trade and investment are what is needed to boost economies and strengthen developments to overcome the crisis: “The agreement will offer new market access prospects for exporters from both sides in agricultural products, automobiles, electronics, wines and spirits, banking, telecoms and environmental services.”

The deal is with Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, whose combined population is 35 million.

Trade liberalisation talks have also resumed with the Mercosur bloc — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, with 270 million people. The EU has some 500 million.

The negotiations teetered on collapse last week over quota haggling for cheese, milk, bananas, beef and rice.

Central American states export farm products mostly, and import machinery, chemicals, vehicles and fuels from Europe.

Combined trade last year was nearly 10 billion euros.