A Mercosur technical committee will be meeting next week in Venezuela to elaborate the group's final tariffs reduction proposal to exchange with the European Union as part of the ongoing, but long delayed, negotiations to reach an ambitious free trade agreement, according to Brazil's foreign minister Luiz Alberto Figuereido.
”The purpose of the committee's meeting next 12/13 February in Caracas is to make compatible the different proposals from Mercosur members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), and elaborate a definitive concrete presentation to discuss with the EU for a free trade agreement, said Figuereido on Thursday before the Brazilian Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay are committed to this accord insisted the minister despite the fact that there is no date scheduled for the Mercosur several times suspended summit, much less when the meeting and exchange of proposals with the EU would be taking place.
The announcement from the Brazilian official comes at a time when there is no certainty about what attitude the government of President Cristina Fernandez will adopt regarding the group's proposal since it is evident that there are discrepancies among members. Argentina is believed to have presented a tariffs' reduction proposal which is considerably less ambitious, in number and time, than that of the rest of the group.
Apparently Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay support a wide ranging and faster in time project for the elimination of tariffs. Venezuela does not count in this round because it fully incorporated to Mercosur only recently and still has much to advance in making compatible its systems to the rest of the group.
Only a few weeks ago the Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro had said that Mercosur was more advanced” than the EU in the elaboration of its proposal, although at the time he also admitted that it had not been decided if the group would be acting with a single presentation or at 'different speeds' or in 'different numbers'.
The exchange of proposals was originally scheduled for December 2013, but the EU requested it be delayed for January 2014 because of the end of the year holidays, but according to diplomatic sources, the Europeans also had some difficulties regarding agriculture mainly from France, Ireland and Poland. However last week the EU called on Mercosur requesting to know how many (of the four) countries would be sitting at the negotiations table. Venezuela is not participating.
The technical committee meeting in Caracas will be attended by staff from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, but as said above there is no date for the Mercosur summit, which has been delayed three times, once in December and twice in January, and now apparently again in February. The latest tentative date for such a meeting is the end of March in Caracas, according to diplomatic sources in Brazil. Venezuela hosts the meeting because it currently holds the rotating chair of Mercosur.