Mercosur foreign ministers will be meeting in June with the European Union Trade Commissionaire Cecilia Malmstrom to 'assess' the current negotiations for a comprehensive trade and cooperation agreement. The meeting in Brussels will be on the sidelines of the EU-Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit, the first at ministerial level since January 2013
Malmstrom has invited Mercosur members for a meeting on 11 June, indicated the European Commission spokesperson. It should be a chance to exchange ideas at ministerial level regarding the significant ongoing talks with Mercosur members attending the summit.
The purpose of the meeting is to overcome the 'current morass' in which the talks are 'trapped' said Matthias Jorgensen, head of the Latin American Unit at the EC Commerce Department during a conference at the European Parliament.
Following a six-year hiatus, the EU and Mercosur resumed negotiations in 2010 for the long delayed trade agreement. Mercosur includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, plus Venezuela which only joined in 2013, but is not part of the talks.
When the bilateral talks with Mercosur took off in 1999, EU had fifteen members, now 28.
However the talks are again stalled: last year on several opportunities the exchange of tariff-reduction proposals, an indispensable step to keep advancing, never took place.
Negotiations have been in a 'blind alley' for some time and we're trying to see how, and if we can advance, said Malmstrom last April. Before the officer had mentioned ongoing 'difficulties' with Mercosur regarding negotiations.
There are difficulties. We have to make sure that even when there has been the will, from the very beginning, there are also equivalent ambitions, between the two blocks. In effect, some EU members are not happy with some aspects of the formalization of a treaty, for example France, Ireland, Poland, Spain mainly on farm issues.
Furthermore both sides are acting with some mistrust regarding the proposals, and the EU wants to make sure the Mercosur final joint proposal is 'serious', before continuing.
The official position is that the accord must reflect the economic dimension of the two regions. Because Mercosur nowadays is not the same as it was back in 2004, and Brussels fears that the tariff-reduction proposal won't be more different than that of ten years ago. Brussels hopes that if a new proposal is finally put on the table it has substance.
At the 11 June meeting the following steps of the negotiation will be addressed and there is no talk of a date to exchange proposals.
What comes out of the meeting will be a political accord, no details, of how to continue. Mercosur last July said it already had the proposal ready, said EU sources adding that despite all, next steps look complicated not only because of the ambitions in the proposals, but also because of dissent among Mercosur members.
In effect only a week ago Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez met with his counterpart in Brasilia, Dilma Rousseff and they agreed that it was necessary to have a 'more flexible' Mercosur, and individual member agreements with third parties without the need of the group's consensus and joint negotiations, as rules demand currently.
However Christian Leffler, head of the EU Desk for the Americas did not discard the possibility of 'advancing separately at different paces' as long as this becomes an official, formal communication.
At that point we would have to consider the situation and find a solution, admitted Leffler during a video conference with Latin American journalists, but the fact is that the EU wants to reach an agreement with all Mercosur members.
The objective, our main goal is an association agreement between the EU and Mercosur, and we are convinced that this would be the best option both for Mercosur countries and for the EU”, concluded Leffler.