The European Commission president José Manuel Durão Barroso and Spanish president José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said they were confident of a successful conclusion of trade and cooperation agreements the EU is currently in the process of negotiations with Latin America.
This should occur hopefully by next May when the summit of Latin American, Caribbean and European Union leaders meets in Madrid.
“In foreign policy we have a major priority: agreements with Latin America at the summit to be held in Madrid next May,” said Rodriguez Zapatero. He added that comprehensive “economic agreements with Central America, the Andean Community and Mercosur are in process.”
More specifically referring to Mercosur, Rodriguez Zapatero admitted it would be the “toughest” deal, the one which will demand the “greatest effort.”
Mercosur and the EU have been holding negotiations for over ten years in an attempt to reach an association agreement, but discussions became frozen in 2006 over discrepancies on industrial goods for which the EU wants more access in Mercosur, and on the agriculture chapter, for which South American countries are demanding greater consideration from the EU.
EU also conditioned this negotiation to an agreement at the Doha Round. However a week ago, Brazilian Foreign Affairs minister Celso Amorim mentioned the possibility that the agriculture chapter could be left aside, under an umbrella, so that the main guidelines of the negotiations could be concluded by May in time for the summit, given the fact that Doha Round negotiations on the issue remain “virtually dead.”
EC president Barroso said he was hopeful that by the time of the May summit with Latin America “we can have the agreements with Central America and the Andean Community ready, while launching the decisive round of Mercosur negotiations.”
Spain currently holds until next July the rotating presidency of the EU and is hopeful that its close links with Latin America can speed and conclude pending trade and cooperation negotiations.