The European Parliament Tuesday approved two pacts freeing up EU trade with Colombia, Peru and six countries in Central America, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
The pacts will free up markets on both sides by cutting import tariffs, removing technical barriers to trade, liberalising services markets and opening up public procurement, said an EP statement.
Besides liberalising trade, the pact also has development cooperation and political dialogue clauses designed to help promote sustainable development, reduce poverty and consolidate stability by integrating the Central American region as a whole.
For the EU, the biggest gains are likely to be in exports of machinery, cars, chemicals, and telecoms and transport services. EU exporters could save up to 87 million euro annually in customs duties.
Central America's key traditional exports to the EU are microchips, coffee, bananas and pineapples.
EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht today welcomed the European Parliament's approval.
"We will achieve a stronger political dialogue and more effective cooperation on a wide range of issues at the regional level. These important instruments will give us the opportunity to better work together towards the development of a closer relationship and a deeper regional integration," said Ashton in a statement.
On his part, De Gucht said he is convinced "that these trade deals cannot just be measured in euros or dollars. They go much further than that - by providing a framework for sustainable social development through trade in the region.