European Union and Mercosur representatives analyzed the current state of negotiations for an association and free trade agreement but could not establish a date for the exchange of new proposals because the European Commission has yet not concluded the consultation process with member states to harmonize its proposal.
The exchange of ideas between the two negotiating teams took place through a video conference in which Mercosur insisted it has an ambitious and balanced proposal that includes goods, services, investments and government procurement, according to the release this week from the Argentine foreign ministry.
Argentina holds the rotating chair of Mercosur until next month's summit in Paraná, when the responsibility will pass on to Brazil for the following six months.
According to the report the European Commission indicated it has to finalize the internal consultation process regarding its own proposal which it estimates should take place any time now.
The Mercosur/EC exchange of proposals has suffered several postponements, the last of which in June, because of the Brazilian electoral process which ended with the re-election of president Dilma Rousseff.
The first such exchange of proposals dates back to 2001, in Montevideo, during a meeting of the Cairns ministerial group of farm exporting countries and in 2004 there was a second exchange.
Mercosur and the EU formally launched negotiations, which started in 1999, in April 2000 with the idea of reaching an association agreement, which not only includes free trade, but also a chapter on cooperation and political convergence. However dialogue stalled until 2010, and was retaken from then but with a snail advance.
The main obstacle has been the presentation of trade and tariff-reduction proposals which the two blocks must exchange, (based on consensus) and were delayed on the Mercosur side because Argentina was dragging its feet regarding a proposal to cut tariffs by over 90%. On the EC side the agriculture issue and rural employment, was high in the sensitive agenda of several European countries such as France, Ireland, Spain, Hungary among others.
Negotiations also suffered long periods of interruption motivated by different factors such as the EU decision to have them submitted to the WTO Doha Round results; the two blocks recession periods as a consequence of the 2008/09 global financial collapse which triggered protectionist policies and the suspension of Paraguay from Mercosur, among other issues.
The expansion of the EU membership also created uncertainty in negotiations although the incorporation of Venezuela to Mercosur did not have any effect since this country does not participate of the negotiations because it still is adapting and making compatible its tariffs' system with the rest of the block's.