Reports from the European Union and Mercosur confirm that negotiations for a trade agreement remain at ‘technical level’ and no information will be forthcoming until both sides have agreed on the lists of products to be exchanged.
Last week both sides met at Asunción, Paraguay and contrary to previous rounds everybody was tight lipped about the results. The only fresh information was that the following round would take place in Brussels in early July, and sometime in the second half of the year Montevideo will be hosting negotiations since Uruguay will be holding the Mercosur chair.
Following the latest round, “progress on a trade deal between the European Union and Mercosur has been delayed until the end of the year”, EC Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos was quoted in the Irish press.
The commissioner was speaking to journalists during a tour to his home region of Transylvania in Romania where he briefed a number of European and agriculture correspondents on his CAP (Common Agriculture Policy) reform priorities and other related topics.
In Asunción, Paraguayan Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Manuel María Cáceres, head of the Mercosur delegation said that “we have discussed the rules for the proposals and how we plan access to markets”. He added “we will continue to advance and the moment both sides’ proposals are ready for presentation, we will then announce when the EU/Mercosur exchange (of proposals) will take place”.
The atmosphere of the latest rounds of negotiations both in Brussels and in Asunción has not been precisely the best since European farm lobbies have managed to align support from the European Parliament and presented financial reports estimating the losses for European farmers (‘in billions of Euros’) particularly in the area of meats and to a certain extend dairy produce.
Several countries led by France and Ireland have anticipated no agreement will be viable unless the trade deal proves it is not detrimental for EU farmers finances and employment, and Mercosur complies with matching environment regulations.
Furthermore the EU faces a strong debate on the Common Agriculture Policy, CAP, and the budget. “A more equitable share-out of EU farm funds is essential and a policy that has the understanding and support of Europe's taxpayers is vital”, said Ciolos.
The Irish press speculates if Ciolos ‘has the toughness or steel of his commissioner predecessors, Marianne Fischer Boel and Franz Fischler’. This follows suggestions from Ciolos saying that “he would match his CAP reform package to the EU budget proposals”.
Ciolos has skillfully brokered alliances within the Member States and European parliament “on the Mercosur issue and has won a temporary reprieve for farmers”. But getting a positive outcome on CAP funding and reform will be even tougher, points out the Irish press.
Paraguayan minister Caceres admitted the situation inside the EC is not the best and achieving greater market access for Mercosur agriculture produce and EU similar expectations regarding industrial goods and services, given the current atmosphere “could in effect be disappointedly delayed”.
The EU last year said it was in the interest of the block to reach a trade and cooperation agreement with Mercosur. The EC has also complained that Argentina’s non automatic licences’ imports system, ‘protectionist measures’ do not contribute to the trade talks.
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