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Buenos Aires Times | 6 June 2023
EU, Mercosur will ’take time’ to conclude trade deal, says French official
A French government official said Monday that the European Union and Mercosur want to "take their time" to ratify a trade deal on terms that "suit all parties."
France’s foreign trade minister, Olivier Becht, delivered the remark about the two blocs in an interview with the AFP news agency as he began a visit to Brazil.
The EU and the Mercosur – made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – concluded talks over a historic trade deal in 2019 after more than 20 years of complex negotiations.
However, the agreement has not yet been ratified for several reasons, including complaints from agricultural producers and European concerns about the environmental policies of former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022).
"I have the impression that there is, both on the part of the EU and the Mercosur countries, the idea of taking their time to be able to find what suits all parties," Becht told AFP in a telephone interview during his first day of an official visit to Brazil.
Becht recalled "France’s demands on the integration of the Paris Agreement [on climate change] as an essential clause, on the rules of deforestation, respect for the mirror clauses on French health and environmental standards."
The French official met with several Brazilian government officials on his first day in the region, including the national energy minister. On Tuesday he will travel to São Paulo, where he will visit the facilities of the French firms Thales and Airbus Helicopters.
Last Friday, a French diplomatic source said during a conference call with journalists that ratification of the EU-Mercosur trade deal still seemed far off.
Brazil’s leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who took office in January, also said a few days ago that conclusion of the deal could "take a little longer."
Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira has previously described Europe’s rules as "extremely rigid.”
Becht stressed that France "has always had strong relations with Brazil on the economic level, even during the Bolsonaro period," when diplomatic ties cooled.
"Today we are experiencing a continuity, but a continuity that is taking place in a peaceful political climate," he added.
His South American tour continues in Chile on Thursday and Friday.