Trade negotiations between the European Union and Mercosur are making progress and are on track for a possible trade agreement by mid-2011, following coincidences on several controversial points.
Negotiators that have been meeting in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro for the past two weeks advanced on non-tariff issues such as government procurement, subsidies and investment rules.
This is the third round of discussions since negotiations were re-launched last May following a five-year stall. The two chief negotiators are Brazil's Evandro Didonet and Portugal's Joao Machado and discussions allegedly have been helped by the “good rapport” between the two officials, besides the fact their mother tongue is Portuguese.
There's been progress in all sectors, some more than others, but generally there's satisfaction said Argentine sources at the meetings. Argentina is represented by Trade and International Economic Relations Secretary Luis María Kreckler.
As a result the negotiations can now move forward to the second phase, in which both sides present their tariff and market access proposals at the next meeting in Brussels March 14/18. Twelve different groups will then work on the different areas.
Some of the advances refer to rules or origin, services, investments, technical barriers to trade and mechanisms to address controversies. Areas still in the drawing board include safeguards and sanitary measures and intellectual property rights.
However previous to Brussels Mercosur members are scheduled to meet in Asunción, Paraguay to advance on the consolidation of the group’s improved proposal, in accordance with the proposals’ exchange chronogram agreed with the EU.
The European Union hopes to reach an accord with Mercosur by mid-2011, the EU's trade chief Karel De Gucht said in September. The aim is creating the world's largest free-trade zone with 750 million people and goods trade valued at 65 billion Euros a year. The EU is also the main investor in Mercosur member countries.
Nevertheless the negotiation committee has three more bilateral meetings scheduled before July 2011. Mercosur has representatives from the four full members, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, plus observers from Venezuela that is in the process of full incorporation to the group.
In spite of the advances there are still obstacles ahead particularly from the European farmers with the support of countries with strong agriculture interests such as France and Ireland. They basically fear the competitiveness of Mercosur agriculture and claim “poor abidance of sanitary and quality” regulations in the food industry by South American countries.