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27th Feb 2024

EU gauges will for Latin America trade deal

  • Shop in Argentina. Trade deal with EU should 'not sacrifice one single job in Argentina', said FM. (Photo: Alex O'Neal)

The EU's trade commissioner Cecila Malmstroem will be meeting with trade ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay on Thursday morning (11 June), to gauge how much support there is for a trade agreement.

The EU wants a deal with the regional bloc, Mercosur, of which the four Latin American countries are the founding members, but talks have been slow for years.

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  • Brazilian president Rousseff (in red) between her French colleague Hollande and Bolivian president Morales. (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Malmstroem and the ministers will “take stock of the situation and confirm if there is commitment for a balanced agreement”, commission spokesperson Daniel Rosario told this website.

At the turn of the century, the EU started trade talks with Mercosur, but suspended them in 2004. Six years later the negotiations resumed, but progress has been slow.

Argentina is the most reluctant of the four negotiating countries.

The foreign minister of Argentina noted on Wednesday (10 June) that an EU-Mercosur deal should be “beneficial for both sides and does not sacrifice one single job in Argentina”.

“We believe that we cannot sacrifice the wellbeing of our people for an agreement that is not beneficial for us”, said minister Hector Timerman, who is in Brussels this week for a summit of European, Latin American, and Caribbean states.

The EU-Mercosur meeting will happen in the margins of the event.

Some of the more eager countries have suggested that negotiations should continue at different speeds, leaving behind Argentina.

“Uruguay has proposed that we advance differently, at different speeds, and different timings, but advance we must”, Uruguay president Tabare Vazquez said this week, according to news agency Mercopress.

“I would say we are ready to sign now; some Mercosur member has asked for more time, and will most probably join in later on”, he added.

But the EU only wants a deal with Mercosur as a whole.

“The meeting today is with Mercosur. Mercosur is our negotiating partner”, said commission spokesperson Rosario.

Some have argued that Argentinian elections in October may result in a government with a more liberal stance on trade, but Paraguay president Horacio Cartes said earlier this week “we don't have to wait, we can't wait anymore”.

“Elections are part of the political agenda of each country, and we should not try to delay or try to stop something which is good and positive for all Mercosur members. If there is something which is banned in all this process is fatigue, feeling exhausted”, noted Cartes.

Meanwhile, Mercosur prospective member Bolivia said it would pull out of the bloc if there is a trade deal.

“We prefer to expand our regional market by ourselves, rather than be accomplices of an inhuman policy which harms the majority of the people and only benefits a minority”, said Bolivian left-wing president Evo Morales, whose country is not a full member yet until Brazil and Paraguay ratify the accession agreement.

Venezuela, the only country to become a full member of Mercosur since its inception in 1991, is not part of the negotiations because it joined the bloc in 2013.

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