The European Union's Ambassador to Argentina said Thursday that if the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur was to be revived it was now or never.
With the war between Ukraine and Russia and agrifood prices soaring globally, Ambassador Amador Sánchez Rico, said: If we do not promote it now, we will never do it.
The treaty was heralded by former Argentine President Mauricio Macri in 2019 during his pro tempore presidency of the regional bloc as a done deal, which was not quite so. It needed to be ratified by Parliaments from each and every EU member and some had already announced they would not pass it, citing the lack of commitment of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to the protection of the Amazon rainforest, namely Emmanuel Macron's France. In February 2021, Uruguayan Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo said that the treaty was not closed and that it was consensual in its central body.
Sánchez Rico's words came as European authorities strive to adapt to utility shortages stemming from Russia's decision to cut the gas supply lines from countries unwilling to pay for it in rubles.
The new scenario has European officials looking for alternatives to supplies usually purchased from the two rival countries, including agreements with Latin American countries to boost production and future
export of hydrocarbons.
Given the geopolitical context and the impact of the war in Ukraine on energy and food supply chains, it is the right time for the ratification of the agreement between Mercosur and the European Union, Sánchez Rico said during a conference hosted by the Center for International Studies of the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires.
If we cannot push the agreement through now, we will never do it, he added.
In his view, the biggest challenge for the European Union is to become independent from the gas and oil supplied by Russia. We were not able to do it since 2014, with the annexation of Crimea, and some countries even increased their imports, he admitted. The goal is to reduce dependence on Russian gas and oil to two-thirds, he also explained.
Sources in the Argentine Government told the Buenos Aires daily Ámbito that neither Argentina nor Mercosur were now in a hurry to speed up the agreement. In this context of global crisis, we are not in a hurry to move any process forward, we have to wait. Our priorities now are the reduction of inflation and the recovery of income.
As an emergency measure, Spain and Portugal have already authorized the entry of Argentine corn since March.
In line with Ambassador Sánchez Rico's assessment, Brazil's Economy Minister Paulo Guedes has said: I believe that the free trade agreement between the European Union and Mercosur will be reached in two and a half years since the current geopolitical situation and the war in Ukraine will accelerate this process.