Trade relations between the EU and the Central American region are determined by an Association Agreement signed in June 2012. This agreement covers, inter alia, trade, political dialogue and cooperation. The Central American countries involved are Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
The trade pillar of the EU-Central America Association Agreement entered into force in 2013 and includes a Trade and Sustainable Development Title, the Parties’ commitments on labour and environment-related matters being of importance for their trade relations and the overall objective of supporting sustainable development. These commitments include, amongst other things, implementation of the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).
Moreover, the EU and Central American countries have undertaken commitments to ensure a high level of labour and environmental protection in their domestic legislation, to strive to improve laws and policies in these areas, and not to lower these levels in order to attract trade or investment. They have also expressed the will to cooperate in areas related to trade and, respectively, labour, the environment and sustainable development. This includes facilitation of trade and investment in environmental technologies and services, the promotion of renewable energy and energy-efficient products and the promotion of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and of trade in products subject to ethical or fair trade schemes. Cooperation may also include trade-related aspects of the sustainable management of forest resources, the promotion of sustainable fishing and other relevant areas.
The Parties have also committed to monitoring the impact of the Agreement.
EU Domestic Advisory Group
The Trade and Sustainable Development Title of the EU-Central America Association Agreement envisages that each Party establish a new, or consult an existing, Advisory Group on trade and sustainable development (the environment and labour), with the task of expressing views and making recommendations on trade-related aspects of sustainable development and advising the Parties on how to better achieve the objectives of the Title. The Advisory Group shall comprise independent representative civil society organisations, with balanced representation of economic, social and environmental stakeholders including, among others, employers' and workers' organisations, business associations, non-governmental organisations and local authorities.
The EU-Central America Association Agreement stipulates that the Parties organise and facilitate a bi-regional Civil Society Dialogue Forum, with balanced representation of economic, social and environmental stakeholders. Its purpose is to provide a framework for open dialogue on trade and sustainable development aspects in relations between the Parties, as well as for discussions on how cooperation may help achieve the objectives in the Title. The Civil Society Dialogue Forum will meet once a year, unless the Parties agree otherwise. Each meeting of the intergovernmental Board on Trade and Sustainable Development will include a session with civil society representatives to discuss implementation of the Title.
In addition, the EU and Central American Advisory Groups have agreed to hold annual joint meetings organised back-to-back with the meetings of the Civil Society Dialogue Forum. Such joint meetings provide an appropriate framework for structured, in-depth discussions on a broad range of aspects relating to implementation of the Trade and Sustainable Development Title. They also allow for the exchange of information and best practice in related areas and the preparation of joint recommendations to be presented to the Parties and to the Civil Society Dialogue Forum.