Portugal which last week took the rotating presidency of the European Union for six months as of January 1st, said that it will try to conclude the bloc’s free trade agreement with Mercosur, agreed in 2019 after two decades of negotiations that have not yet been finalized.
The Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augusto Santos Silva, said that his country needs to make progress, as a failure will damage the reputation of the European Union, the largest trade bloc in the world. “Our credibility is at stake. It is Portugal’s responsibility to try to complete this process and we assume this obligation”, said Santos Silva in an online briefing.
It is worth remembering that the EU agreed, in June 2019, to create a free trade area of 700 million inhabitants including the population of Mercosur which is formed by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
However France, Ireland, Poland and other EU members plus the European Parliament have since opposed finalizing details of the agreement, claiming that Mercosur must do more to fulfill its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement and that Brazil is failing to combat deforestation in the Amazon region.
However Santos Silva said that France and Ireland should not use the environmental issue to deflect concerns about the scale of future meat imports to the EU, saying that the bloc’s countries will benefit from being able to export more to Latin America.
But it is not only in the EU where objections have arisen, President Alberto Fernandez from Argentina has raised doubts about the commitment of Mercosur, the fourth largest commercial bloc in the world, to the agreement with the EU. Fernández said he wants to renegotiate parts of the deal as Argentina seems again towards protectionist policies.