MONTEVIDEO – The South American regional economic and political group known as Mercosur and the European Union should aim to consolidate their integration in order to generate deals, two European trade experts said on Wednesday during the opening of the First European Investment Forum in Uruguay.
According to the former director of the Ibero-American General Secretariat (Segib) Enrique Iglesias, who spoke alongside Lorella de la Cruz Iglesias, both blocs had to generate the necessary conditions for effective economic integration in the face of growing global protectionism.
“The truth is that we still don’t have the capacity to set up an effective economic integration that is capable of generating more than 18 percent of commerce between us,” he said, speaking at the panel that marked the opening of the forum.
Mercosur is an economic and political bloc created in 1991 which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Iglesias highlighted that the free trade deal that was being negotiated by Mercosur and the EU was closely tied to the possibility of energizing European investments and becoming a motor that generates a more vigorous integration movement in the region.
He assured that, if the four Mercosur countries (Venezuela is not participating in the negotiations) could quickly conclude an integration process, there would then be a total of 30 countries that EU member states have deals with, thus creating a 57-country-strong preferential area.
For Iglesias, who from 1985-1990 served as Uruguay’s foreign minister, the impact of a deal between the blocs would serve to create a mobilization that would invigorate the Latin American region.
“We need the support of the European deals to strengthen our value chains,” he said.
On the other hand, the deputy chief of the Latin American unit of the EC’s General Directorate for Foreign Trade underscored the need for Mercosur and the EU to consolidate their relationship in order to “move forward.”
“A basic element in any trade investment relation is to ensure the existence of a foreseeable, stable and transparent business framework in their respective countries,” she added.
In her opinion, the EU’s “great challenge” is Mercosur, a commercial block they hope is now in the final phase to conclude a free trade deal.
De la Cruz Iglesias also pointed out the importance of “diversifying exchanges” among both trading blocks, as previously explained, the EU imports from Latin America raw materials and agricultural products while Europe exports to Latin America manufactured products.
“We must achieve a more comprehensive integration of production and value chains; this is a subject that remains pending,” she stated.
The Forum’s inaugural act included the presence of the EU ambassador to Uruguay, Juan Fernandez Trigo, who explained that Uruguay is a country that acts as a gateway for Mercosur and therefore, the talks between both trading blocks are going down “the right path.”
“From our point of view, the agreement opens substantial expectations of increasing our presence, not only in Uruguay but all across Mercosur,” he emphasized.
The Forum’s opening panel “The importance of relations between Latin America and the EU” was conducted by EFE’s regional director for Latin America, Pedro Damian Diego Perez.