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Thursday 21 October 2010

Patricia Covarrubia

The best possible Association Agreement? The EU and Central America negotiations

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October 15, San Salvador. In the framework of World Day for rural women, the 'Mesoamerican Women in Resistance for a dignified life' called social organizations and communities of rural women to march on the streets and avenues of the Salvadoran capital – the goal, the Legislature or 'Palacio Azul' to present their demands.

Among their demands, is the ending of the Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU). As informed in an early blog, back in May Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panamá) signed the agreement at the Summit of Madrid, Spain.

We are "against the intention of the European Union to take over our public services, our natural resources and energy and to dismantle our agriculture" said Jorge Coronado Marroquín of the Social Alliance Continental Central-America. It has always been clear that the AA is just another FTA (Free Trade Agreement), now with this signature the most affected are excluded, including farmers and indigenous and especially women and it is evident the wishes of taking over the natural wealth...” says the group ‘La Via Campesina and Friends of the Earth International’.

Europe in its bilateral agreements with countries or regions calls for more intellectual property provisions, beyond those raised by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and NAFTA. "This is a form of monopoly to prevent others from accessing a resource or knowledge" the info continues.

97% of patents in the world belong to countries like the U.S., Japan and Europe, 90% are owned by transnational corporations. According to Silvia Ribeiro, researcher and ETC’s president, all the food and pharmaceutical industry are based on intellectual property which is contrary to food sovereignty. "It is based on the use of plants, microorganisms of the countries with great diversity, as is the case of Central America, and it also facilities the theft of organisms, the control of food and agriculture, the move forwards monopolies and more biotechnology" she says.

These are certainly strong accusations, but as in every story there are two sides, or in this case many sides because here is the said of few parties in this whole AA. There is of course happy faces from those in the meat and rice business, since this will be the first time that the Central American countries can export these to the EU. The agreement also provides that the EU will reduce the tariff for bananas in the next ten years and for coffee, one of the key products of the region, the tariff will be zero.

I just wish that Latin America can sit with better cards in a table of negotiations, especially IP. But then I guess that we need to compromise somewhere. Yes, it is true that we have the natural resources but if we do not have the tools to develop those at their best potential then it is when we need to sit tight and negotiate (or not as the picture suggests). Don’t you agree?

I will have to end with the sentence that Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega said when the AA was finally signed: “while it wasn’t the best, it was the best possible”.

More info here and here.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia