EU wants to reopen free trade negotiations with Mercosur
MONTEVIDEO, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — The European Union (EU) is ready to resume free trade talks with the South American Common Market (Mercosur), EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Sunday.
The two trading blocs have a shared political commitment to restart the negotiations and representatives of both sides are expected to meet next year on the issue, Almunia said after meeting with the economic ministers of Mercosur member nations.
Referring to a key sticking point in the free trade talks, Almunia said the EU wants Mercosur to make its markets more accessible to industrial goods and services from the western trading bloc and create more favorable conditions for EU investors, while the South American regional trading bloc hopes to increase exports of agricultural products to European markets.
And the EU-Mercosur negotiations would benefit from any success at the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, Almunia added.
Both the EU and Mercosur want to reach interregional association agreements between them, he said.
The two blocs began negotiations in November 1999 with the aim of concluding an agreement by 2005, but progress has been slow due to disagreements over import restrictions on agricultural goods. They have only reached the stage of discussing tariffs, the most sensitive part of any trade negotiations.
Mercosur is a regional trade bloc founded in 1991. Its full members are Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. Venezuela is in the process of acquiring full membership, and the five other countries associated with the group are Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.