In anticipation of a new round of Mercosur/European Union trade talks to take place in Brussels, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht confirmed he remained hopeful a deal could be struck in the coming twelve months, following the recent experience with South Korea.
“What we hope is that we can reach an agreement within a reasonable times-pan, ideally before the next summer holidays” he said, referring to the European summer break starting in July 2011.
However De Gucht underlined that at this stage nothing was official but that he was encouraged because the EU is emerging from a prolonged crisis and would welcome an agreement with a fast-growing Mercosur region, and equally important there was a clear decision in Brussels to go ahead.
He mentioned that the recent EU agreement signed with South Korea gave him hope that a similar deal could be reached with Mercosur.
Rounding up his early month visit to Brazil and Argentina to spur talks and more specifically to Mercosur complaints about agriculture and tariffs, De Gucht said “the EU also had its demands with respect to industry and services, for example, protective duties of 35% for the Mercosur auto industry”.
Asked about strongly voiced reservations on agriculture from a group of EU countries led by France, De Gucht replied that the EU could neither speak for its member states nor shut them up.
EU has been pursuing an agreement with Mercosur since 1995. If these efforts were crowned with success Europe would be the first such trade partner of any importance while at the same time creating the world’ largest trade zone.
Brussels is impressed by the size of the Mercosur market and growth rate — its GDP of 1.3 trillion Euros is larger than any single member of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) except China while the 165 billion Euros the EU already has invested in Mercosur exceeds its stake in any one BRIC country, including China
De Gucht said he noted definite progress in Mercosur integration even though no trade bloc in the world was as advanced as Europe.
The decision to resume Mercosur/EU trade talks was agreed last May in Madrid during an EU/Latinamerican leaders’ summit. The first round of talks took place in Buenos Aires during June and should now continue in Brussels in October.
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