Mercosur does not exist; Uruguay is losing precious time and should try a one to one trade agreement with the European Union, according to Paul Riezler, president of the Euro-Chamber in Uruguay and of the Uruguay-Germany Commerce and Industry Chamber.
Uruguay is losing precious time, Mercosur does not exist and there is no excuse for not attempting a one to one trade agreement with the EU, because other countries in the continent have followed that path despite what the EU officially states, said Riezler.
The business leader insisted yes, the EU says it only negotiates at blocks' level, but it also happens it has signed agreements with Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Peru. Evidence is that Europe in theory says it does not sign, but in practical terms it does sign agreements with individual countries, the only thing we can add is that Uruguay has been losing time.
Riezler admits that some of the difficulties to reach an agreement are from the EU, but Mercosur also has its share.
In effect the administration of Argentine president Cristina Fernandez has been the less willing to agree with the EU, but Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay have shown the most interest on reaching the long delayed trade agreement.
Uruguay can reach an agreement with the EU, through Mercosur or if not on its own. But not in three years time, the right moment is now, Uruguay can't afford to lose more time, insisted Riezler.
He also pointed out that in the block to block negotiations, Uruguay has adopted the correct diplomatic policy, behind Brazil and supporting 'big brother', he defends the initiative and also gets the blows, but at some point if things don't move, Uruguay has to face it: we do it with them or we do it on our own.
However reaching a Uruguay-EU agreement could have consequences with Mercosur members, but these must be addressed 'politically' and anyhow such an accord will always be better than possible good or bad deals that could be developed with Argentina.
Riezler said that a good moment for the change of trade agreements' strategy could be when the new Uruguayan administration takes office next March first. I feel that the incoming government is very much committed to Mercosur, but I also feel that if results are not forthcoming, they might say, 'well if we can't do it together, we'll have to do it on our own'.
Last July Mercosur members finally agreed to a joint proposal which is to be discussed and exchanged with the EU proposal. However last November the new European Community authorities took office and it was decided to wait for a new timetable of exchanges.
In September Alvaro Ons, Uruguay's head of the Integration Department in the foreign ministry warned that without an exchange of trade proposals it was hard to be 'optimistic' about a deal in the short term.
Mercosur/EU negotiations took off in 1999 and were later stalled for different motives until 2010. That year it was understood that December 2013 was the time limit for the exchange of trade proposals. However the protectionist measures implemented by Argentina and challenged at the WTO by the EU and US became an obstacle, besides the fact that several EU members, (France and Ireland mainly) were reluctant to agree on agriculture.
Likewise since Mercosur decisions are by consensus, and Argentina fearing the loss of its Brazilian market share to the EU, the administration of Cristina Fernandez was ever so reluctant to have the group reach an understanding.