In what was described as a shameful incident, Brazil had to retract from statements made by one of its diplomats, a condition demanded by Argentina to continue negotiations for a Mercosur common tariffs reduction proposal which was taking place in Caracas. The incident occurred last week but only came to light over the weekend.
Mercosur representatives from its full members were working in Caracas, since early last week in elaborating the tariffs' proposal that has to be exchanged, probably in March, with the European Union to continue with negotiations for an ambitious but much delayed cooperation and trade liberalization agreement between the two blocks.
Apparently all was going smoothly and Argentina had even improved its original restrictive proposal and was much closer to that of Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, but then Argentina was informed that the Brazilian ambassador before the EU in Brussels, Vera Machado had make some rather harsh remarks referred to Argentina at the EU parliament.
Ambassador Machado, a veteran experienced diplomat, was asked in the EU parliament why President Dilma Rousseff had requested to delay the EU/Brazil summit for this coming week.
She replied that Mercosur negotiations were complicated since although Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, were working harmoniously, the same could not be said of Argentina, which seemed to be torpedoing the meetings.
Argentina was further angered when it was informed that the EU main negotiator, Joao Machado (from Portugal) who seemed well informed of what was going on inside Mercosur, had anticipated that a Mercosur/EU technical meeting for the exchange of proposals could very well take place during March.
Argentina demanded a public retraction from Brazil otherwise their delegation would return to Buenos Aires, leaving the proposal negotiations unfinished, but even worse further deepening the current situation of an anemic Mercosur compared to the vigorous Pacific Alliance.
Brazil refused to make a public retraction but did deliver a short release at the Brazilian embassy in Argentina, a sort of retraction in which it cleared the words of ambassador Vera Machado in Brussels.
In the brief release, the Brazilian embassy in Buenos Aires states that the repercussion of statements attributed to Brazil`s representative before the EU do not correspond to the positive assessment that Brazil makes of the Mercosur joint proposal elaboration process in the context of bi-regional negotiations, particularly given the constructive advances reached at the Mercosur meeting in Caracas on February 12/13.
Further on the Brazilian government is confident that the current understanding will lead to the definition of a Mercosur joint proposal to be exchanged with that from the EU.
The Brazilian government said that there was 'hyper sensitivity' from Argentina, and the assessment of the situation described by ambassador Machado basically does not go further than that what is reported daily in the media.
Thankfully, according to Brazilian sources, the round of talks in Caracas was showing advances in the understandings inside Mercosur and the idea now is to effectively fix a date for the technical Mercosur/EU meeting sometime in March to show the profile of the respective proposals, 'but not yet for the exchange or proposals'.