The 28-country European Union underscored the potential benefits of a free trade agreement with Mercosur and revealed that so far no country member of the group has requested to a bilateral negotiation.
“The EU is committed to conclude an ambitious, wide ranging and balanced agreement with Mercosur” said John Clancy, spokesperson for EU Trade Commissioner when asked about a possible splitting of negotiations as had been suggested by the Brazilian Foreign minister Antonio Patriota in an interview with the Financial Times.
According to the interview the Brazilian government is planning to present a proposal to advance in a bilateral agreement given the delay in negotiations between the EU and Mercosur.
“We are negotiating with Mercosur as a block. At the last ministerial EU/Mercosur meeting held in Santiago last 26 January, Mercosur members agreed to exchange market access proposals at the latest in the fourth quarter of this year”, said Clancy.
But so far there has been no proposal from any Mercosur member to change the agreed agenda or the nature of the current EU/Mercosur negotiations, added Clancy. “If Mercosur countries want to change this, such a proposal would have to be examined by EU”.
The EU spokesperson insisted that the 28-country group is very much interested in an agreement with Mercosur since “this would mean significant benefits for both sides”.
EU and Mercosur in Madrid last May 2010 resumed negotiations for an ambitious association agreement based on cooperation, political dialogue and free trade which took off in 1999 but was suspended in 2004 because of lack of advances.
Since then both sides have been involved in nine negotiation rounds, centred mainly in trade rules, but with no mention of the markets-access issue. However obstacles remain since Mercosur is demanding greater access for its agriculture produce and the EU for manufactured goods and services into the South American block.
The rupture of a block-to-block negotiation into one with individual countries already happened with the Andean Community that was discussing a trade agreement with the EU and finally was cut down to single agreements with Colombia and Peru. The accord was signed in 2012 and became effective this month.