In what is seen by many of the EU’s farmers as the first test of the bloc’s desire to protect European agriculture, Brussels is continuing to negotiate with Mercosur countries to conclude a trade and association agreement despite the fact that serious contentious issues still remain, according to the European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström.
To conclude the free trade agreement with the Mercosur, Malmström has highlighted the progress made in recent months on what admitted were “difficult issues” but added that there are still complications that need to be addressed before a final deal can be reached by the two sides. In particular, the EU remains concerned about agricultural subsidies handed out by Mercosur, an economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
“I am an optimistic person, I think there is a good opportunity for us to achieve it (a deal) under this mandate and I will do everything I can to contribute to this,” said Malmström on 17 June while reiterating that she will pursue an agreement “at any price”.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said that he hopes a free trade agreement can be finalised by the time his mandate comes to an end in October.
“I think I have been very clear on this issue. We have made a lot of progress,” said Malmström in response to certain statements made by some Mercosur countries that suggest a positive conclusion to the negotiations is imminent. She added that the two sides have hit certain stumbling blocks that are not related to agriculture, saying “we are still not there” but, “we can finish it”.
If approved, the accord between the EU and the world’s fourth-largest trade bloc would follow agreements with Japan and Canada and could cover everything from goods to the services market as well as public procurement.