European Parliament Approves Latin American Trade Pacts

European Parliament Approves Latin American Trade Pacts

The European Parliament approved a series of free trade pacts with Colombia, Peru and six Central America nations.

Lawmakers in the Strasbourg Parliament had blocked the accords, which were signed in June, over concerns about Colombia’s human rights record and its labor laws.

But the latest vote paves the way for the trade deals with the two Andean nations and the six Central American states — Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama — to come into effect in early 2013.

The eight nations already have free trade agreements with the U.S.

“At a time when our economy is struggling, it is vital that the EU forges stronger links with emerging economies,” said Catherine Bearder, a U.K. liberal member of the Parliament.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, estimates European exporters to Colombia and Peru alone will save up to 270 million euros ($350 million) in annual duties within a decade.

The EU’s bilateral trade with the Andean nations — Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia — was worth more than $33 billion in 2011. The EU exported $12.6 billion of goods and imported $20.8 billion from the region, mostly commodities, including coal, and agricultural products.