Negotiators from the European Union and Mercosur have decided to begin a concentrated effort to reach an agreement on free trade within the scheduled time frame which should end on October 31.
The idea is that technical meetings will begin today in Brussels and on September 20, specialists from both sides will present complete lists of offers to be followed by a ministerial meeting a month later to evaluate progress. And an agreement will be signed at the end of October, says Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim.
Amorim made his comment following a meeting yesterday in Brasília, capital of Brazil, with the EU trade commissioner, Pascal Lamy. Amorim admitted that problems remain on both sides but that the Lamy trip to Brazil shows that the EU considers the talks important.
“We had a productive meeting in which we exchanged points of view on areas where we can make progress. I believe the effort to reach an agreement is worthwhile and should be made,” said Amorim.
Lamy says the EU considers the talks a priority. “Of course, there are still many problems to resolve, but we have made significant progress,” said Lamy. “We are working under a deadline, but it is not a do-or-die deadline.”
The EU wants access to telecommunications, maritime transportation and banking on an equal footing with local operators, besides an opening in government procurements.
Mercosur has focused on market access for goods that it can produce more competitively, such as beef, alterrnative fuels (sugarcane-based alcohol), chicken and bananas.
Last month, Brazil’s National Agricultural Confederation (CNA) released a note lamenting the temporary termination of the Mercosur/European Union biregional negotiations.
CNA vice president for International Affairs, Gilman Viana Rodrigues, said at that time that the impasse would make it hard to keep to the original timetable which called for an agreement by October.
“Mercosur has lost an opportunity to increase its farm sector exports by US$ 2 billion annually, besides creating 720,000 jobs,” said Rodrigues.
In its note, the CNA pointed out that a Mercosur-EU agreement would create the second biggest economic block in the world, with 700 million consumers.
The CNA also deplored that fact that methodology problems have hindered progress, resulting in the suspension of two meetings of the coordinators.
The CNA called for a stronger commitment by the negotiators and more coordination intra-Mercosur, similar to the successful setup at recent multilateral negotiations at the World Trade Organization.