Uruguayan foreign minister Luis Almagro said it should not come as a surprise if the negotiations for a trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union does not include all four original full members and leaves one out, although the objective is for all members to be part of the accord.
“During the coming Mercosur summit in Caracas, scheduled for February we will see if it is an accord of three countries plus one, or if the accord is with one country plus contributions from other members, or if we face other options” said Almagro.
The main objective is for all Mercosur members to reach ‘an accord with the EU together as a group’ explained the Uruguayan minister on the sidelines of a conference on the Inter American Human Rights Convention, taking place in Montevideo
More specifically on the bilateral negotiations for a trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU, Almagro revealed that Mercosur ‘has moved faster than the EU’, and has worked hard on reaching a tariffs concession list, which was supposed to be exchanged at the end of 2013 as agreed, but has yet to be presented.
However Almagro admitted that the Argentine proposal contains “lower levels of tariffs concessions compared to other Mercosur members” so the administration of President Cristina Fernandez has been asked “to try and increase those concessions’ percentages”.
“We hope the EU has its list ready this month” following what happened in December when European representatives requested a postponement of the exchange of proposal because of the Xmas and end of the year holidays at EU bureaucracy level.
The delay coincides with the postponement on several occasions of the Mercosur summit scheduled originally for 17 December last year in Caracas, but then agreed for early January, then late January and now sometime in mid February, allegedly because of presidential agenda problems.
The summit was first postponed on request of Argentina because of the recovery from cranial surgery of Cristina Fernandez, and later by Venezuela in the midst of a serious inflation, shortages and prices situation.
Mercosur and EU negotiations date back to 1999/2000, but have yet to reach an agreement; they were completely paralyzed in 2004 and only retaken in 2010. However the suspension of Paraguay (June 2012) from Mercosur for 18 months again delayed the whole process. With the election and swearing in of president Horacio Cartes last 15 August, Paraguay returned in full to the block, which is to be formalized in the Caracas summit.
This is not the first time there is talk of a divided Mercosur in trade negotiations with the EU. A few months ago the Brazilian government, spurred by the strong industrial lobbies from the country first surfaced the idea of a ‘two-speed’ Mercosur converging in time with all the group.
Brazil despite its ‘strategic patience’ regarding Argentina is anxious to reach an agreement with the EU following the fall of a long list of tariff benefits which ceased as of January first because all Mercosur members (Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay) with the exception of Paraguay, are now considered high middle-class countries.