The European Parliament will give its consent this week to a Trade Agreement between the European Union and Colombia and Peru.

Negotiations between the EU and the Andean Community for a region-to-region association agreement began in 2007. Unfortunately, disagreement between Andean countries on approaches to a number of key issues led to the suspension of talks in June 2008, at which point talks moved forward on an agreement between the EU and Colombia and Peru - which remains open, however, to the participation of the other Andean Community countries, via an accession clause, if they show willingness to sign it.

This agreement represents a step forward in the commercial relations between the EU and these two South American countries, boosting access to their markets, contributing to developing the economies of both regions. According to a Sustainability Impact Assessment, the estimated overall long-term welfare gains from the Trade Agreement are up to 1.3% of GDP for Colombia and 0.7% for Peru. Furthermore, it will also bring political and social benefits to both countries, as they are effectively improving their human and labour rights frameworks, and working towards increased environmental protection and sustainable development.

The EPP Group fully supports this Agreement and Rapporteur Mário David (responsible for drafting the Parliament's position), in particular, has been working to reach a broad approach to it, promoting GDP growth and employment, but also the quality, value and extent of commercial relations, as well as ensuring sustainable development and a higher level of human and labour rights in these two Andean countries - all things which will surely attract more EU investors to the region.

What are the trade advantages of this agreement?

Under the agreement, EU telecommunications and financial services, and also the construction, machinery and automobile industry, in particular will have enhanced access to Colombian and Peruvian markets. Colombia and Peru, on the other hand, will be able to export their goods - in particular bananas, grapes and shrimps - with lower tariffs to the EU market.

Colombia and Peru have already been freely accessing the EU market. But the agreement is important as Colombia and Peru will lose this access under the revised Generalised System of Preferences.

Trade between the EU and Colombia and Peru grew by 10% between 2006 and 2010. The ratification and entry-into-force of this agreement will ensure this continues within the legal framework and provisions of the Trade Agreement. The aim is to strengthen this commercial cooperation in accordance with World Trade Organization rules.

Why is there a human rights clause included in the agreement?

This Trade Agreement with Colombia and Peru is one of the few EU trade agreements to contain a human rights clause. Whereas the agreement is economic in its focus, it contains an enforceable human rights clause and a part on sustainable development, covering the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation and multilateral environmental agreements.

For many years, Colombia has been the country with the highest homicide rate of trade unionists worldwide. At the beginning of the 1990s, 250 trade unionists were murdered per year. Despite the significant decrease of these figures, 26 cases were still registered in 2011. Moreover, long-standing armed conflicts, drug cartels and corruption have been problems historically identified in these countries.

Working towards more democratic societies that defend and implement fundamental human rights, as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a very important aspect for the EU. Commitments to effectively implement labour principles such as freedom of association and the recognition of the right to collective bargaining are provisions included in the agreement. In case of breach of these rules, the provisions and the effects of the agreement can be suspended.

Both Colombia and Peru have shown concrete political willingness to adopt specific legislation in the social and environmental fields, and the two governments have already voluntarily presented a roadmap on these topics, in close cooperation with the European Union, following a request by the European Parliament in a resolution adopted prior to this agreement.

Rapporteur Mário David calls for a higher level of legislative quality, rule of law, environmental protection, and a higher participation of citizens in the law-making process in Colombia and Peru - something the administrations of these two counties are already pursuing.

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