On Tuesday, the European Parliament endorsed the accession of Ecuador to the free trade agreement that its neighbors, Peru and Colombia, have had with the community bloc for several years. The agreement will include a protection mechanism for European banana producers, if imports of this fruit exceed a certain amount.
The European Parliament approved the Protocol of accession with 544 votes in favor, 114 votes against and 44 abstentions. The agreement will abolish, within a period of 17 years, the tariffs of 96% of the products imported. However, once it enters into force, the EU will eliminate taxes for 95% of the chapters and Ecuador for 60%.
According to the calculations of the European Commission, community exporters will save at least 106 million euro per year in tariffs, while Ecuadorian exporters will save approximately 250 million.
The agreement will allow Quito to retain preferential access to the EU market, a status that it would have lost because of a reform of the EU's system of trade preferences. Additionally, Ecuador will benefit from easier access for its main exports to the EU, such as fish, cut flowers, coffee, cocoa, fruits, and nuts.
However, the EU will implement a stabilization mechanism in the case of banana imports so as to protect the interests of European producers. Ecuador is the largest exporter of bananas to the EU, with a 26% share.
On Tuesday, negotiators from the European Parliament and of the EU Council (the institution that represents the Member States) reached a political agreement to implement this instrument, which will be regulated in another legislative text and that will allow the suspension of preferences of this fruit after a given export volume.
The EU has tried to negotiate a trade agreement with the Andean countries as a bloc for years, but the lack of progress led Brussels to negotiate a multipart agreement with the most receptive countries.
Ecuador abandoned the multilateral talks in 2009 and the agreement was signed in 2012 with Peru and Colombia. The EU and Ecuador resumed contacts in January 2014 and achieved an agreement in July of that same year, regarding the specificities to articulate their entry.
The trade agreement provides for the elimination of tariffs for industrial and fishing products, greater market access for agricultural products, and access to public hiring, services, and investment markets. In the agricultural area, the EU has negotiated hundreds of geographical indication protections.
The agreement will also help reduce the technical obstacles to trade and the introduction of common disciplines, such as, intellectual property rights, transparency, and competition, among others. It also includes provisions on the protection of human rights and the rule of law, commitments to effectively implement international labour rights conventions and environmental protection.
Source: Europa Press