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EU hails 'political agreement' on Colombia, Peru trade deals

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(BRUSSELS) - European Union governments hailed Friday a "political agreement" that leaves only "technical obstacles" to the final signing of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Colombia and Peru.

European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said the two deals would scrap around 500 million euros in duties every year between the 27-nation bloc and the two South American nations.

Trade ministers from the 27 EU states "reached a political agreement on a draft decision approving the signing and provisional application of a multipartite free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru," a statement said after day-long talks in Brussels.

"This decision will be adopted at a forthcoming meeting, once the text of the agreement has been finalised, and the consent of the European Parliament will be requested for conclusion of the agreement."

De Gucht said there remained now only "technical obstacles, no more than that."

Initialled in March 2011, the agreement "includes commitments on the enforcement of labour and environmental standards" and is also open for take-up by Ecuador and Bolivia, the other two members of the Andean Community.

In a separate joint EU-Mercosur statement, referring to a wider South American trade bloc, it was decided that a next round of negotiations will be held in Brazil in July 2012.

Trade ministers urged Japan to come forward with proposed changes to enable negotiations to begin on an FTA there over coming months.

They said they would meet with another FTA target, Singapore, in two weeks' time hoping to resolve problems over banking market access in those negotiations.

Plans to take emerging economies including China off a list that benefited historically from trading advantages require fresh negotiations with the European Parliament with diplomats saying phasing-out periods are needed.

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