The European Union and Mercosur are hopeful they can reach a trade agreement before the end of the year said the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton during her visit to Brazil.
“We expect progress from discussions in the coming months” said Ashton next to Brazilian Foreign Affairs minister Antonio Patriota. The EU top diplomat is on a tour that also includes Mexico.
Ashton underlined the potential for business, investment and commerce between the EU and Mercosur, which she said “should be taking advantage off, to the benefit of both sides”.
Patriota recalled that the rotating chair of Mercosur will pass on to Brazil on the second half of this year (the first half belongs to Argentina) and assured that member countries of the block are well aware of the advantages of an agreement with the EU.
Negotiations have been virtually stalled for most of the last decade particularly regarding differences in such areas as agriculture and services, which so far have been insurmountable by the two sides.
Nevertheless Patriota said that expectations for 2012 are that “we can keep advancing, and ideally be able to conclude the agreement this very year”. He also pointed out the significance of the EU for Brazilian trade with last year bilateral exchanges reaching 99.3 billion dollars.
But Ashton and Patriota displayed different positions regarding how to address the current crises in Syria and Iran. While the EU representative argued in favour of the sanctions imposed by the European block, Patriota said Brazil believes such measures should be adopted at the UN Security Council.
The two diplomats coincided that the Arab League has a leading role to play in the Syrian crisis but while Ashton insisted Syrian President Bachar al Asad must leave office, Patriota said he was contrary to unilateral sanctions with the UN Security Council the most appropriate forum.
“We are not sure that unilateral sanction contribute to create the adequate climate” for a peaceful diplomatic solution, added Patriota.