EU, Central American states reach trade deal

MADRID (Reuters) - The European Union and Central American states reached an agreement on Tuesday to liberalize trade and cut import tariffs.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive in charge of the 27-nation bloc’s trade policy, said the deal would formally be concluded by EU and Central American heads of states at a summit in Madrid on Wednesday.

“The trade ministers of Central America and the EU express their full satisfaction with the outcome, which will result in an ambitious, comprehensive and balanced trade pillar of the association agreement,” the Commission said in a statement.

The EU and Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua began trade negotiations in 2007. The talks resumed early this year after a brief suspension following a coup in Honduras.

The European Union is Central America’s largest trading partner after the United States. Trade between the blocs stood at nearly 10 billion euros ($12.32 billion) in 2009.

Central American states export mostly agricultural products such as coffee, bananas and other fruits to the EU and import machinery, chemicals, vehicles and fuels from Europe.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Matthew Jones