Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Uruguay Rodolfo Nin Novoa, on Wednesday exchanged EU and Mercosur offers on access to their respective markets of goods, services and establishment and government procurement. However this first exchange excluded 'sensitive' items such as beef and ethanol, according to EU sources. The details of the documents exchanged were not made public.
This is the first exchange of offers since 2004, and a necessary step to move the negotiating process forward. Both sides will now examine in more detail the offers.
Argentine minister Susana Malcorra twited that the EU and Mercosur will hold a chief negotiators' meeting before the boreal summer break in July in Montevideo in order to take stock of the negotiation and to prepare a schedule of meetings for the second half of the year.
Both sides remain fully committed to this negotiation, in view of the important economic and political gains expected for both sides from a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced EU-Mercosur Association Agreement, said a joint release.
The EU is currently negotiating a trade agreement with Mercosur as part of the overall negotiation for a bi-regional Association Agreement which also cover a political and a cooperation pillar.
These negotiations with Mercosur were officially relaunched at the EU-Mercosur summit in Madrid on 17 May 2010. The objective is to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement, covering not only trade in industrial and agricultural goods but also services and establishment and government procurement, and the improvement of rules inter alia on government procurement, intellectual property, customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade.
Nine negotiation rounds (the last one from 22 to 26 October 2012) have taken place since then.
Until now, rounds have focused on the part of the agreement related to rules and the two regions are still working on the preparation of their market access offers. No date has been set yet for the exchange of market access offers.
In 1995, the EU and Mercosur countries signed an Inter-regional Framework Cooperation Agreement, including cooperation on trade-related matters. This agreement was concluded in 1999.
Some facts about the significance of Wednesday´s event: EU is Mercosur's first trading partner, accounting for 20% of Mercosur's total trade in 2013. EU-Mercosur trade in that year was €110 billion.
Mercosur is the 6th most important export market for the EU (2013 data). EU's exports to the region have steadily increased over the last years, going up from € 28 billion in 2007 to €57 billion in 2013
Mercosur's biggest exports to the EU are made of agricultural products (43% of total exports) and raw materials (28%), while the EU mostly exports manufactured products to Mercosur and notably machinery and transport equipment (46% of total exports) and chemicals (22% of total exports) [data of 2013].
The EU is also a major exporter of commercial services to Mercosur (€18.5 billion in 2012), as well as the biggest foreign investor in the region, with a stock of foreign direct investment that has steadily increased over the past years and which amounted to €280 billion in 2012 compared to € 130 billion in 2000.