Brazil would like free-trade talks between the European Union and Mercosur to include Argentina, but would be prepared to proceed without its regional ally if an understanding can't be reached on March 7, according to the head of Brazil's farming confederation.
Katia Abreu, president of the Brazilian Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock and a Brazilian senator and very close friend of President Dilma Rousseff, said Brazilian business in particular was united in its support of an EU-Mercosur trade deal 15 years after the first talks.
Mercosur members Uruguay and Paraguay are also ready for a deal. However, it is not clear whether Argentina, going through a protectionist cycle is fully prepared to open its market.
Argentina today is a stumbling block Abreu, whose Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) is part of President Dilma Rousseff's ruling coalition, told a news briefing in Brussels.
Mercosur members are set to meet on March 7 to discuss the extent to which they are prepared to lift tariffs on EU imports. Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay have agreed to do so on more than 90% of goods, Abreu said. That level is considered a minimum for doing business with the European Union. Reluctant Argentina stood at between 80 and 90 percent, she said.
We do not want to neglect Argentina, said Abreu, in Brussels for the EU-Brazil summit. We hope we will convince them, but maybe they will join at a later stage.
EU and Mercosur negotiators will hold a meeting on March 21.
Abreu said the farming sector stands to gain from a free trade deal, with Brazil a leading exporter of soy, beef and poultry, but other Brazilian industries had been won round to the need for an EU trade deal after the launch of EU-U.S. trade talks.
We perhaps have to thank the U.S. for this. That has made many in Brazil waken to the situation... It could create a huge bloc and leave others outside, said the powerful leader.