After several days of meetings and very long discussions, the EU might seem a step closer to Mercosur, on the ling-negotiated Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The meetings may be held at a ministerial level but it seems that it is as high as they will get, until the final breakthrough is achieved. The new round had last Wednesday’s working dinner as a milestone, in order to review negotiations to date between the two ecocides.
The Berlaymont, European Commission’s headquarters, hosted the meetings of European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen, along with European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, as well as Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström, from the EU side, with the foreign Ministers of all four Mercosur member states, namely Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
After a series of technical meetings that took place between the EU and Mercosur in Brussels, the above mentioned politicians along with Agriculture and Industry ministers from the South American Union countries, are intensifying negotiations, in the hope of a breakthrough to what will be the EU’s greater t FTA in terms of population coverage, at a market of 264 miller consumers and tariff cuts.
“Meetings between EU and Mercosur are ongoing, with both sides working hard do bridge the remaining gaps. The discussions continue today and you will be the fist to know when we do have news for you,” were the laconic words of the European Commission spokesperson, Natasha Bertaud when asked for a choreography update.
The talks between the EU and Mercosur countries have lasted for twenty years, with both sides trying to force a breakthrough in the coming weeks. In the past, the Netherlands, France, Ireland and Poland, have raised concerns on the draft negotiating FTA’s impact to the bloc’s agriculture, as the Mercosur countries are eager to open up the European market for their Argentinian, Uruguayan and Brazilian beef, but the EU market stakeholders do not seem delighted.
The differences in regulations in the field of animal welfare between the EU and Mercosur are also a source of concern, with stakeholders asking for “fair and balanced trade and agreements that ensure that they do not encourage surpluses in our markets. European farmers cannot be used as small change when the EU negotiates free trade agreements,” as they claim that farmers “cannot afford additional income losses due to a trade agreement that puts even more pressure on the EU sugar, beef and chicken meat markets,” while at the same time, the other side suggests that the tariff slashing and the cutting of all the red tape will assist many SMEs in their plans to export to those markets.
At the same time, the French president Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday and ahead of the G20 meeting in Japan, that he would not sign any trade deal with Brazil if its president Jair Bolsonaro pulled out of the Paris climate agreement.
“If Brazil left the Paris accord, as far our we are concerned, we could not sign a trade deal with them,” Macron told reporters in Japan, ahead of the G20 leaders’ meeting. All this, “for a simple reason. We’re asking our farmers to stop using pesticides, we’re asking our companies to produce less carbon, that has a competitiveness cost,” he added. “So we’re not going to say from one day to the next that we’ll let in goods from countries that don’t respect any of that,” underlined the French president.
The French leader is likely to stick to his commitments, as earlier in 2019 he kept his word by opposing at the European Council the opening of free trade agreement negotiations with the US, as Donald Trump has pulled the country out of the accord soon after he got in office.
Hence the majority, the Council was able to mandate the European Commission anyway but this is another reminder for the bloc’s trade partners that an FTA is not simply tariffs talks, but it is basically a structural process with rules that both sides need to respect.