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The European Parliament is about to discuss (on December 11) whether it will ratify or not the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiated with Peru and Colombia and the Association Agreement with Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica). If the agreements are ratified, it is likely that they will enter into force in 2013.
“These are two different kinds of agreements but basically the same model”, Colombian activist Lyda Forero of the Transnational Institute (TNI) of The Netherlands told Real World Radio. “These agreements are another example of agreements signed to strengthen or to confirm the neoliberal model”.
Friends of the Earth International organized a solidarity mission in Guatemala and El Salvador from November 13 to 19 to verify human rights abuses and criminalization of environmental activists and communities resisting mining projects and dams.
Lyda participated in the mission on behalf of TNI. The Colombian activist focused on the negative role of European corporations in Latin America when she referred to the impacts of FTA between the European Union (EU), Peru and Colombia and the Association Agreement with Central America.
Lyda talked about the environmental and social impacts of the agreements. She said the European transnational corporations are displacing communities from their land, causing environmental devastation and using up all the water sources in Latin America. Labor conditions are precarious, she said. Besides, Latin American corporations do not have the capacity to compete with European corporations so jobs are lost in the Southern companies.
Lyda also underlined that Latin American continent will lose food sovereignty as a result of the trade agreements signed with the EU. The import of products from the EU has negative impacts on the Latin American rural areas, on the living conditions of peasants, and this affects food sovereignty. The pressure of the EU change the productive conditions of Latin American countries and lead to the consolidation of the exporting agroindustrial model, said Lyda. “The model is intensified” and big transnational corporations get certain guarantees.
The activist talked about a study conducted by TNI on the potential impacts of the FTA between the EU and Colombia on the coal, dairy and palm oil industry. The study is available here: http://www.tni.org/briefing/dossier-colombia
The FTA and the Association Agreement should be analyzed differently by the European Parliament. Lyda explained that the FTA with Colombia and Peru, for example, was declared a “mixed” agreement because it has non-trade related impacts. This means that it should be voted in the corresponding national Parliaments of the EU member states. But the European Commission found the way to avoid having to wait nearly two years (that this process would take) and came up with a “provisional implementation”, said Lyda, which could be used at any moment.
The activist said that if the EU Parliament ratifies the two agreements on Tuesday, the process at the Latin American Parliaments will be fast and the two treaties would enter into force in early 2013.
As a result of the serious accusations of human rights abuses against the Colombian and the Peruvian governments and of the pressure of the civil society on the EU, the European bloc is demanding the governments of Colombia and Peru to provide a clear mapping to define their commitments to secure the enforcement of human rights in their countries. The map is what they call a road map. This is a way for the EU to avoid criticism over concerns of human rights violations in both countries.
The activist of TNI urged the Central American organizations to call on their Parliaments to not ratify the Association Agreement. The agreement still needs to be ratified by the Parliaments of the five Central American countries involved.
Lyda also said that activists in Colombia and Peru have been doing advocacy missions to members of the European Parliament in the past month.
This advocacy work is essential. The aim is to put pressure on the MEP so that they will not ratify neither of the treaties. Organizations have sent petitions and a video of the solidarity mission of Friends of the Earth International in Guatemala and El Salvador. Besides, there are two websites so that people can send direct messages to the MEP asking them to not ratify the agreements. Lyda urged people to sign cyberactions that can be found here: https://oiga.me/campaigns/pide-al-parlamento-europeo-que-no-ratifique-un-tratado-que-atenta-contra-los-derechos-humanos-noaltlc http://www.fta-eu-latinamerica.org/sistema/
If the European Parliament ratifies the treaties and if they enter into force in 2013, social movements and organizations will have to follow up their impacts in both regions. In Latin America “we need to follow up on the implementation of the treaties and show the expected and unexpected negative impacts”, said Lyda.
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