Relations with Central American Countries
The elections in Nicaragua and the end of the Contra war, all achieved as part of the ongoing Central American peace process that began in 1983, raised hopes that Central Americans could turn to other issues of concern in the region. The Chamorro government maintained that it favored political and economic integration in Central America. In June 1990, President Chamorro joined the four other Central American presidents in a summit meeting in Antigua, Guatemala, part of an ongoing series of presidential summits that had taken place since the Esquipulas II agreement of August 1987. The five presidents announced on June 17, 1990, that they had agreed to a plan for regional cooperation in trade, financing, investment, and production. The plan included the revival of the Central American Common Market (CACM- -see Appendix B) through a revision of tariff and nontariff barriers to trade.
Central America sought to increase trade as an important step to economic recovery and long-term growth, both through broad and steady access to the United States market and through increasing trade within the Central American region. As mandated by the 1987 Esquipulas II accords, Central Americans took steps to advance integration efforts among themselves. Various efforts to bring all the countries together have resulted in some liberalization of trade. Nicaragua participated in the first step in January 1991, when in a two-day meeting in Tuxtla, Mexico, the presidents of the five Central American countries signed an agreement outlining free-trade arrangements that would be phased in by December 31, 1996. This trade integration would start with each country bilaterally negotiating agreements by economic sector with Mexico. Subsequently, however, Nicaragua did not move with the same speed as other Central American countries toward regional economic integration; its delay was attributed to domestic economic conditions. Nicaragua also lagged on a regional political measure, namely, participation in the Central American Parliament. In a September 1991 meeting in San Salvador, the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras decided to hold an inaugural session of the parliament the following month. Nicaragua, however, had not yet held elections for the twenty delegates each country would send to the body; this delay was attributed to the cost of holding special elections and to domestic political reasons. The three participating countries gave Nicaragua, Costa Rica (which had not yet ratified the treaty), and Panama (which had expressed interest in joining regional integration measures) thirty-six months to take the steps necessary to participate. After finally holding elections for its delegates, the Central American Parliament, with delegates from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in attendance, had its first meeting in Esquipulas, Guatemala in 1993.
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