The European Union said differences with Argentina over food import impediments belonged to the past, but in private warned that such measures only help to erode the needed trust to keep advancing negotiations for a free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, arrived Wednesday in Argentina from Brazil, which currently holds the rotating chair of Mercosur, and met with Foreign Affairs minister Hector Timerman and Industry minister Deborah Giorgi.
At the meetings De Gucht said he expected “substantial” advances in EU/Mercosur talks with the purpose of reaching a full agreement by July 2011, and by the end of this year “a formal exchange of proposals from both sides”. The first meeting of the current round took place last June in Buenos Aires and the next is scheduled for mid October in Brussels.
In a press conference De Gucht said Brussels had overcome last June criticisms to protest restrictions of food imports from the EU which led to the cancelling of several import orders. The “verbal” restrictions were communicated to importers by Argentina’s controversial Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno.
“We criticized the situation, but we are satisfied we can now say that it is no longer an open dispute. The Argentine government has back stepped”, said De Gucht. In the first seven months of this year imports from the EU increased 53% while Argentine exports to that block remained virtually unchanged compared to the same period a year ago.
De Gucht also underlined that in talks with Argentine officials he only found a strong cooperation spirit and “positive agenda”.
In the meeting with Timerman, De Gucht said there are no import restrictions’ complaints although he underlined that it was essential a no-repeat of these measures which “do not contribute to create the necessary trust for negotiations”, according to a source close to the EU delegation.
In a release the Ministry or Industry said there are “no impediments or blocking of food imports from the EU” and all measures adopted were in the framework of the World Trade Organization. “There are no formal, informal or any type of barriers for that matter”, said Ms Giorgi.