MercoPress | 05 November 2006
Mercosur and EU willing to compromise on trade
Mercosur and European Union delegates begin Monday a two days meeting in Rio do Janeiro with the purpose of re-launching negotiations for a free trade agreement.
Negotiations have been stalled for almost two years and Mercosur expects the EU to improve its agriculture proposal, anticipated Brazilian negotiator Regis Arslanian.
“We expect a clear signal from the EU by showing us what they have to propose regarding agriculture. That’s the purpose of the meeting”, said Arslanian.
EU-Mercosur negotiations for a free trade zone with 700 million people were launched in 1999 and should have been on track by 2004 but negotiations have been suspended over differences in agriculture and services.
A resumption attempt last September didn’t take off since negotiations seemed to be conditioned to the Doha Round from the World Trade Organization, where anyhow both sides are also confronted.
But during October the European Commission and Mercosur seemed to agree that there’s a “window of opportunity” to advance parallel to Doha and therefore the Monday meeting in Brazil.
“The meeting is basically to keep hope alive. What can change if the EU does not come up with an improved proposal?, asked a skeptical Argentine diplomat.
According to Brazilian sources Mercosur wants the EU to admit access for 300.000 tons of beef; 200.000 tons of sugar; a million tons of ethanol and 3.5 million tons of corn and sorghum, according to reports in the Brazilian press.
But in the Rio meeting, “nothing will be written or printed” and “no formal exchange of proposals will take place”, anticipated Arslanian.
“Anyhow we expect the meeting helps us reach a negotiation package that is evidence of both sides’ flexibility”, said Arslanian.
The Brazilian delegate also revealed that Mercosur’s major members, Brazil and Argentina are ready to advance and reach an agreement, no matter what happens with the Doha round.
“If Europeans are willing to open their agriculture market, Mercosur is prepared to improve its services and automobile industries proposals, which is of EU interest”, said Arslanian.
“We’re ready to explain and detail our proposal. We have all the numbers and are ready to discuss them”, he insisted.