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19th Aug 2018

EU-Latin America trade talks move to 'endgame'

  • Commission vice president Katainen said he was 'hopeful' about the trade talks (Photo: European Commission)

Chief negotiators from the EU and the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay will continue discussions on Friday (2 February) after top officials meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (30 January) "moved forward" in trade talks between the two blocs.

"We are in the end game with Mercosur countries," Jyrki Katainen, EU Commission vice president said on Wednesday.

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  • Agriculture is a major hurdle in talks with the Mercosur countries (Photo: European Milk Board)

"Yesterday things moved forward, and [we] expect Mercosur countries to come back and give their view on how to finalise the negotiations," he told reporters after trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem and agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan briefed fellow commissioners on the state of play of negotiations.

"I'm pretty hopefully at the moment," Katainen added.

The EU and the four Latin American countries are in a final push for reaching a trade deal before election campaign season starts in Brazil.

The EU has been working to secure trade deals as a way to boost the economy and create jobs after the bruising economic crisis, and to prop up multilateralism following US president Donald Trump's turn to protectionism.

EU officials have been stressing the deal's political and strategic importance in strengthening the EU's position in world trade and securing European standards around the world.

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker stopped by a dinner for the Mercosur ministers on Monday evening - emphasising the importance of the deal, and the political capital invested in it by the EU.

Mercosur countries, which have an annual GDP of €2.2 trillion, would enter into their first trade deal if they sign with the EU.

Wednesday's meeting was designed to give a political nudge to the talks, into the final stages.

No offer was tabled by the EU during the meeting, a commission source said.

"At this stage, for the negotiations to move on, both sides should make an effort to meet each other's expectations, while recognising each other's sensitivities. The EU signalled its disposition to do this effort," the source added.

Technical details

Discussions now move to a technical level. The EU has signalled its willingness to move on the issues important for Mercosur and are expecting for them to move as well to reach a compromise. If Friday's meeting does not bring a breakthrough, talks will move back to political level.

A key hurdle is agriculture, where Mercosur countries want the EU to allow more beef in the bloc under the reduced tariff than the originally proposed 70,000 metric tonnes.

The EU wants Mercosur countries to open their markets more significantly to dairy products, cars and car parts, and to have access to maritime services.

"In the endgame there are only the most difficult issues left," Katainen said.

"You have to calibrate how much to offer and where are the red lines, it is always difficult, but if the political will is strong, as it is at the moment, I'm sure that we can get this exercise to the goal," he told reporters.

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