European Union-Mercosur trade talks will continue stagnant until next March when a ministerial meeting is scheduled. Negotiators from both sides were unable last week to agree on a calendar of talks and will be meeting again at the beginning of 2005 to arrange the ministerial summit.
European Commission and Mercosur main negotiators, Carl Falkenberg and Brazilian Ambassador Regis Arslanian agreed last week in Rio do Janeiro to meet again at the "beginning of 2005" at an exact date and place yet to be established, revealed the EC spokesperson.
On that date and place, preparations for the meeting between EC Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson and Mercosur Foreign Affairs ministers will be arranged, which will take place at the end of the first quarter of 2005 in a location still undecided.
The purpose of the Rio meeting last week was to "arrange the following legs of the negotiation" for an association and free trade agreement which EU and Mercosur began five years ago and was scheduled to conclude last October, which did not happen because both sides were not satisfied with the trade proposals on the table.
But in spite of "no decisions, the meeting was very constructive", and both sides decided to continue with the arrangements for the ministerial meeting and also "reviewed all the issues" of the ongoing negotiation. "We've re-established contact and negotiations have not been abandoned", however, "we did not draft a calendar if there was no substance".
Apparently Europeans insisted with their demands saying they expected Mercosur to include proposals in special sectors such as banning discrimination and ensuring the rule of the law in trade affairs for European companies interested in services, investments, government procurement, as well as respect for origin denominations and a greater opening of the industrial area. Mercosur wants greater access to the EU market with improved quotas for beef and other meats and cereals and sugar, among other commodities.
Brazilian Foreign Affairs minister forecasted that EC/Mercosur negotiations still have at least "a year and a half" before them.