Mercosur/European sixth round of negotiations to reach a wide ranging cooperation and trade agreement took off Monday in Brussels, but rather timidly with no immediate prospects of an exchange of proposals for market access.
According to EU sources there are still no plans to put on the table both sides proposals for a potential trade agreement in spite of the fact that negotiations resumed in May 2010, following several years or stalled talks (2004).
“So far both sides are assessing the internal impact such an agreement would have on their economies”, said the sources.
The European Commission is currently analyzing several different scenarios on the impacts for European agriculture of an opening to the more efficient producing countries of Mercosur, which will then be distributed among member countries.
Once the 27 members have analyzed the report, the EU “could be in condition to tell Mercosur when the talks for an exchange of commercial proposals and market access could begin”.
Several EU countries led by France and Ireland are reluctant to advance with negotiations that could harm European farmers, their income and level of rural employment. This is particularly true for beef, since Mercosur is world leader and exporter in the item, and several of the countries that question an accord want Mercosur farmers to comply with the same very strict sanitary and environmental conditions requested from their farmers.
“Therefore we have agreed to advance in the normative framework with chapters on such issues as non tariff barriers, market access, and competition”.
However Mercosur also has its internal problems particularly regarding manufactured goods since mostly Argentina and to a certain extent Brazil are sponsoring an industrial policy either to promote local production or substituting imports and at the same time safeguarding a percentage of the domestic market.
Besides next October Argentina is holding presidential and legislative elections and similarly in the first quarter of next year France will be in the middle of a political campaign. President Nicholas Sarkozy will be trying to hold on to office for another five years, while the Socialists try to push him out.