BRUSSELS – Two decades of negotiations between the European Union and the Brazilian-led Mercosur bloc bore fruit on Friday with the signing of a trade agreement, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said.
“#Mercosur #trade deal done! A historical moment,” he tweeted.
“In the midst of international trade tensions, we are sending a strong signal that we stand for rules-based trade. Largest trade agreement EU has ever concluded. Positive outcome for environment & consumers,” Juncker wrote on Twitter.
Together, Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and the EU represent a market of nearly 780 million people with a combined GDP of 19 trillion euros ($21.6 trillion).
“The new trade framework – part of a wider Association Agreement between the two regions – will consolidate a strategic political and economic partnership and create significant opportunities for sustainable growth on both sides, while respecting the environment and preserving interests of EU consumers and sensitive economic sectors,” the European Commission said in a statement.
Besides upholding the “highest standards” of food safety and consumer protection, the document “contains specific commitments on labor rights and environmental protection, including the implementation of the Paris climate agreement and related enforcement rules,” according to the statement.
“Through this trade pact, Mercosur countries have decided to open up their markets to the EU. This is obviously great news for companies, workers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic,” Juncker said, noting that European firms stand to save 4 billion euros a year in tariffs.
Civil servants from the EU and Mercosur member-states began a new round of technical discussions last week in Brussels to lay the groundwork for a meeting of policy-makers.
Those sessions followed a letter to Juncker from seven EU heads of government, including Spain’s Pedro Sanchez and Angela Merkel of Germany, urging him to hasten the talks with Mercosur to a successful conclusion.
Two days ago, European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen, along with the commissioners for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, and Agriculture, Phil Hogan, hosted a working dinner here with the respective foreign ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, EU sources told EFE.
Talks continued on Thursday, lasting until 10.30 pm, and resumed the following morning.
The process, which began in April 2000, comprised more than 30 rounds of negotiations under a succession of governments in the participating nations.
“Today’s agreement brings Europe and South America closer together in a spirit of cooperation and openness,” Malmström said, while Hogan described the pact as “a fair and balanced deal with opportunities and benefits on both sides, including for Europe’s farmers.”