Negotiations for an ample trade and cooperation agreement between the European Union and Mercosur are strategic, essential and must be urgently concluded, said Ramon Jauregui, head of the Euro-chamber for Latin America delegation, following on the recent accords signed by the EU with Ecuador and Cuba.
Mercosur is of enormous significance for Europe and we are entering a context of uncertainty with the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House, pointed out Jauregui, a member of the European Parliament who added the urgency of signing the agreement which is pending since 1999 and was re launched in 2010.
Jauregui admitted that items such as beef, rice and sugar are considered vulnerable for Europeans and non-negotiable for Mercosur, despite the fact that the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan last November called on the South American block to moderate its aspirations.
However Mercosur sources indicate that the three are part of an EU ten-item sensitive list and argue the accord has a raft of benefits for Europe regarding manufacturing, auto-parts, the chemical industry, among others.
Nevertheless Mercosur sources indicate that 2017 represents a window of opportunity, not necessarily to conclude the accord but to advance and give the talks credibility and a sense of irreversibility.
In effect and looking ahead to the new round of talks scheduled for next March in Buenos Aires, both sides have agreed to leave for further on the sensitive lists, which includes in effect beef and ethanol. Argentina is one of the world's leading exporter of ethanol.
But EU has its own problems: France is holding presidential and legislative elections in the first half of this year and has expressed concern about agriculture, a decisive sector for any aspiring political force wanting to reach Paris. Jauregui feels this is clear evidence of a lack of unity among the 28-member EU when they have to face a Trump administration in Washington.
Mercosur has a more positive approach according to statements from Brazilian foreign minister Jose Serra, with Brexit and Trump's victory, friends must unite. In effect Jauregui has pleaded EU Foreign affairs commissioner Federica Mogherini to take advantage of the current situation when all indicates that a Trump administration might very well emphasize a protectionist policy.
Likewise a potential vacuum in Latin America could be occupied by China, despite the close historic and cultural roots with Europe, and not forgetting that most of manufactured goods or with added value from Latam are exported to Europe, thus Europe should stop looking at its belly button and concentrate in Latin America.
Finally Jaurgegui recalls that 2017 took off with the EU trade agreement with Ecuador, and joins Colombia and Peru, and in coming months a similar scenario will take place with Cuba, conditioned to cooperation in human rights issues.
Let's not forget the significance of these latest moves, since Trump has anticipated he will turn back all the agreements reached by the US with Cuba, under the Obama administration.