The recent resumption of negotiations for a cooperation and free trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union will be at the heart of the EU/Brazil summit scheduled to begin Wednesday in Brasilia.
Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Durao Barroso presidents of the European Council and European Commission respectively will be meeting with Brazilian president Lula da Silva, the fourth summit since 2007 when a ‘strategic association’ agreement was signed covering the fields of politics, economics, trade, culture, science and social development.
This summit takes place only days before Brazil takes over from Argentina the rotating Mercosur chair and a week after delegates from the four members (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) met with their EU counterparts in Buenos Aires to discuss a trade agreement which had been stalled for six years.
Brazilian president Lula da Silva who steps down next January first after eight years in office has repeatedly stated he would like to have an agreement signed with the EU before that date.
Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim anticipated that all efforts will be concentrated in achieving that goal when Brazil takes over the Mercosur chair for the next six months.
“We are confident that negotiations with the EU can advance adequately and even reach conclusive understandings in the second half of this year”, said Amorim.
However in the first round of resumed talks in Buenos Aires the EU complained bitterly about what is described as “Argentine trade barriers” mainly to EU food products, which the Argentine government vehemently denies.
Last month the EU Agriculture Commissar Dacian Ciolos demanded from Argentina “quick and clear actions” to end restrictions imposed on EU agriculture and food imports which could, he cautioned, “influence EU/Mercosur negotiations”.
Buenos Aires denies such claims and argues that all decisions on the matter have been taken “in accordance with World Trade Organizations rules”, to which the EU can appeal.
Argentina’s position has had a strong echo inside the EU where several countries led by France are openly against negotiations with Mercosur fearing the impact of imports in such sensitive areas as beef, pork and poultry production.
More specifically on EU/Brazil relations, Latinamerica’s largest economy is expected to demand a recovery of its share of the EU beef market following an 85% collapse of exports in 2009, motivated by EU sanitary authorities claiming suspicions that Brazilian beef did not comply with all EC regulations.
This position is strongly supported by EU farmers’ unions from France, Ireland and Britain.
Another bilateral issue on the table will be the EU environmental certification which the EU is planning to impose on all bio-fuels imports and of which Brazil is one of the world’s leading producers.
Brazil is part of a group of countries that has been holding informal talks with the EU trying to convince Brussels not to advance such an initiative since it would generate “discriminations” in the bio-energy trade.
Precisely one of the accords to be signed with the EU refers to a cooperation agreement with Brazil for the production of bio-fuels in Mozambique, considered the African country which has most advanced in the clean energy field.
Bilateral trade between Brazil and EU reached 47 billion Euros in 2009, with Brazilian exports totalling 25.6 billion and EU sales to Brazil, 21.6 billion Euros.