MercoPress | Monday, September 13th 2010
EU Trade commissioner in Brazil to advance trade talks with Mercosur
European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht is expected in Brazil to advance trade talks with Mercosur. Brazil currently holds the Mercosur rotating chair. The top EU official will visit Argentina later in the week.
“Given Mercosur economic growth, I see important opportunities for EU exporters, investors and service providers in this region in the coming years” De Gucht said in a statement issued Monday in Brussels, Belgium announcing his trip.
“A balanced and ambitious free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur could therefore bring substantial economic benefits to both sides and contribute to the economic recovery”.
The two sides have been discussing a possible free trade agreement (FTA) since 1995. Talks were suspended in 2004. The governments involved resumed talks last May. Since then, one round of negotiations was held in June in Buenos Aires and as second round is scheduled for next month in Brussels.
However there is considerable resistance within European agriculture circles to a free trade agreement with Mercosur. Fourteen EU farm ministers, members of the EU Parliament, as well as farm groups like Copa have all voiced reservations about such a FTA.
Copa President Padraig Walshe said in June that the EU Commission’s decision to open the Mercosur talks was a backward step in guaranteeing Europeans that their food supply meets the “highest standards of food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare.”
The farm leader asked, “Do EU citizens really want to become dependent on imports from the other side of the world for key food items such as meat and sugar when we have no control over how it is produced or the deforestation?”
In Brazil De Gucht is scheduled to meet with Celos Amorim and Miguel Jorge, Foreign Affairs and Commerce ministers and in Argentina with Hector Timerman and Deborah Girogi who hold similar posts.
Among the issues to be addressed during the meetings is agriculture, of which Mercosur is the world’s most efficient producer, and industrial goods and services, which are of special interest for the EU. The Commissioner will also meet with business leaders and European industry representatives.
In terms of EU exports, Mercosur ranks on par with India and ahead of both Canada and Korea. Over the past four years until the crisis hit, EU exports to Mercosur increased by more than 15% annually. EU investments in Mercosur amount to more than €165 billion, more than EU investments in China, India and Russia together.