BRASILIA – South American trade bloc Mercosur and the European Union are working actively toward wrapping up a free-trade agreement before year’s end, although both sides acknowledged on Friday that the final stage of negotiations would not be free of obstacles.
“The closer we get to the end of the negotiating process, the more difficult the issues will become. Hence the importance of the political component, which adds so much value to the negotiating process,” said European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, who took part in a meeting in Brasilia with Mercosur foreign ministers.
“We’re very close to successfully wrapping up a new agreement between Mercosur and the EU,” Katainen said, adding that the deal could be finalized by the end of December.
Currently, trade relations between the EU and Mercosur, which is made up of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, are governed by an inter-regional Framework Cooperation Agreement that entered into force in 1999.
Aloysio Nunes, the foreign minister of Brazil, which currently holds Mercosur’s rotating presidency, also expressed optimism.
“If we were to get a positive signal from the EU, as I hope we will, we could accelerate the negotiations and conclude them by year’s end,” he said.
He recalled that Mercosur had been putting in a lot of work over the past year to “eliminate a series of barriers” that would move it closer to a deal with the EU and also open up possibilities with other trade blocs.
Also taking part in the meeting in Brasilia was Paraguayan Deputy Foreign Minister Oscar Cabello, who said the negotiations were unfolding in a spirit of equality and with the prospect of “rejecting the protectionist barriers that have cropped up in different parts of the world.”
Mercosur and the EU began negotiating a bi-regional association accord and free-trade agreement in 2000, but talks stalled over political differences in 2004 before resuming in 2010.