Thursday, May 29th 2003 - 21:00 UTC

EU proposes speedier tariff reduction.

The European Union requested from Mercosur a speedier market opening for a list of European agricultural and industrial goods in the framework of the current trade liberalization discussions. Mercosur and the European Union exchanged this Wednesday in Brussels demands to improve the liberalization lists presented last March.

According to European Commission sources "Mercosur proposal is concentrated in a tariff reduction at the end of the period of trade liberalization. We favor a speedier advance at the beginning of the period".

EU Trade Commissar Pascal Lamy's spokesperson said that "we're proposing that a list of European goods have access to Mercosur tariff free during the first years of the period". Among the goods proposed by the EU are ceramics, glass, jewels, steel, machinery, furniture, automated equipment, and in agriculture, beer, spirits, pasta, mineral water, chocolate, cookies. In fisheries the Europeans are interested in a faster market opening for sardines, shrimp, octopus, cod, anchovies, frozen sardines, tuna and mollusks.

The EU also requested Mercosur to take into account "Europe's traditional exports, and the export potential of an expanded EU with ten new members", beginning in 2004.

Mercosur on the other hand is requesting a true opening for agricultural and agro-industrial goods, in which the southern block estimates it's far more efficient, and that the current EU proposal does not include.

Mercosur list of 2,800 items is estimated to be equivalent to 6 billion US dollars in EU annual imports.

Another field that is behind schedule in the discussions is government purchasing, since apparently Mercosur members have different criteria.

However next month, from June 23 to 27, in Asunción, Paraguay, both sides will be meeting for the tenth round of negotiations that began in 2000.

Mr. Lamy's spokesperson indicated that the EU objective in the negotiations with Mercosur is to reach a "substantial content" with "an equilibrium between all the fields of negotiation", that is goods and services, as well as investments and government purchasing.

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