The European Union and Mercosur currently holding a round of association and trade talks will be exchanging proposals for market access of their list of products in the coming two months, according to the EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht.
“Currently we are in the negotiation process with Mercosur and we have been advancing steadily, but I wouldn’t like to give a date for the conclusion of those discussions”, said De Gucht in Brussels Wednesday during the signing of a free trade agreement reached with Colombia and Peru.
“In the coming 60 days we will be exchanging proposals and on that base discussions will continue”, said the EU official when asked about the EU/Mercosur trade negotiations.
The last round of talks, the fourth since they were resumed in May 2010, concluded March 17 in Brussels with no proposals for market access, even when some delegations said that Mercosur was ready to present the list of goods they want to reach free of tariffs into the EU.
Agriculture remains one of the most sensitive issues of negotiations between Mercosur and the EU particularly because the South American block leads as world supplier of several farm commodities and want greater access to the European Union.
A few days before the last round of negotiations in Brussels several European farmers’ cooperatives warned about the negative impact for European agriculture if Mercosur countries are given improved access, particularly the meat industry and more specifically beef.
The European parliament has also been involved with a statement calling on the European Commission to make no concessions that can be harmful to European agriculture and the living standards of farmers.
The next round of talks is scheduled for the fist week of May in Asuncion, Paraguay which currently holds the Mercosur rotating chair.
“We have a tentative date to reach a trade agreement but for the moment I’m keeping it to myself, in pectore” said the De Gutch.
This Thursday EU Agriculture ministers are holding a special Council meeting in Luxembourg on request from Ireland to analyze the current situation of negotiations with Mercosur.
Ireland which is one of the countries that has expressed most concern about the talks has asked the European Commission to report on the “prospects” of those negotiations.
Furthermore Dublin considers that no proposals must be presented to Mercosur until European countries have discussed and assessed the impact of the accord on European agriculture and farmers.
Ireland and farmers cooperatives are also demanding, with support from Parliament that any concessions must be “symmetrical” meaning Mercosur farmers must abide by the same food quality, environment and animal well being conditions demanded from their European counterparts.