Paraguay’s Foreign minister Eladio Loizaga said that at the latest in early February Mercosur and the European Union would be exchanging their tariff reduction proposals for the much delayed free trade agreement. The deadline originally was December but it was delayed on request from Brussels.
“If it’s not at the end of January it will take place in early February” said Loizaga who added the issue was in the hands of foreign ministers from the original four Mercosur full members, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, but not Venezuela the latest incorporation to the group.
“Venezuela’s negotiation process with the rest of the group is yet unfinished”, so this means Caracas is not part of the negotiations with the European Union.
Negotiations for a cooperation and free trade agreement Mercosur/EU took off in late 1999, but never managed to be completed, and in 2004 they froze down completely. However another effort was launched in 2010, but two years later the suspension of Paraguay from Mercosur complicated and further delayed the negotiation.
This was overcome only this year with the election and inauguration of the new Paraguayan president Horacio Cartes, last August.
However at the beginning of December, the original date for the exchange of tariff reduction proposals, Brazilian foreign minister Luis Alberto Figuereido revealed that the EU had requested to delay the summit until January.
“Mercosur was ready with its tariffs’ proposals at the end of the year, as was agreed, but unfortunately they called us and said they wouldn’t make it on time and requested the delay until the end of January”, said Figuereido who identified EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht as the petitioner during a World Trade Organization summit in Bali.
Nevertheless the European Commission Vice-president Antonio Tajani has repeatedly stated that negotiations with Brazil are very smooth, “we work very well with Brazil, for us there is no problem with Mercosur; the problem is inside Mercosur”.
Last Friday Argentina categorically dismissed reports in the Sao Paulo financial media saying that the Mercosur/EU summit had been delayed because Brazil and Argentina could not reach an understanding on the tariff reductions list to be exchanged.
Mercosur is scheduled to hold its three times delayed summit in Caracas on 31 January.