|Nicaragua approves Association Accord with EU|
Nicaragua became the first Central American country to ratify the Association Accord (AdA) negotiated between the European Union and six Central American countries. The vote was 89 in favor, none against and no abstentions. Speaking from Brussels, Lautaro Sandino, Nicaragua’s ambassador to Belgium and the EU, explained that the accord is composed of three “pillars,” trade, political, and assistance, and it is the trade portion that will gain approval first. He said that “If things go very well, we can expect that in February or March, it will go into force.” All that is necessary is that two Central American legislatures and the European Parliament approve it. Sandino said he was hopeful that a vote on the trade portion would take place in the session of the EU parliament scheduled for the week of Dec. 13. An indication will come this week with a committee vote. For the other pillars of the accord to take effect, all Central American legislatures and the legislatures of each of the 27 member nations of the EU must vote their approval, a process that Sandino predicted could take years.
According to the joint report of the two committees (Foreign Affairs and Economy) in the National Assembly that considered the AdA, among the benefits the trade portion will bring is that the EU will reduce its tariffs on 91% of Nicaraguan exports to the region, while Nicaragua will only have to reduce its tariffs by 48% at the time the accord goes into force, “providing an important shield of protection” from unfair competition for Nicaragua’s products. The report also said that the committees looked forward to greater foreign direct investment in Nicaragua from the countries of the EU as a result of the accord. The report noted that EU investment in Nicaragua and exports to the EU of products such as coffee, lobsters, molasses, sesame seed and others had increased substantially in the last five years even without the accord.
Sandinista Deputy Walmaro Gutierrez, chair of the Economy Committee in the Assembly, said that Nicaragua’s exports to the EU could grow from US$250 million to US$1 billion annually. He explained that the AdA will encourage the cohesion of the Central American region including the integration of customs authorities throughout Central America, something that previous trade agreements have not included. Opposition Liberal Deputy Wilfredo Navarro said that the accord is a step toward growth and development for the country and the region and that Nicaragua must prepare itself to meet the expectations for quality products expressed in the accord.
(La Prensa, Oct. 19. 2012; Radio La Primerisima, Oct. 17, 19; El Nuevo Diario, Oct. 18, 20; Informe Pastran, Oct. 19)