EU hits back at Mercosur on trade deal

EU hits back at Mercosur on trade deal

The European Union has rejected any suggestion that it is dragging its feet on agreeing a trade deal with South America’s economic bloc, Mercosur, as the two sides prepare for an important round of talks in Montevideo, Uruguay, later this month.

In an interview with the FT this week, Brazilian foreign minister Aloysio Nunes called for the talks, which have been running for about 20 years, to be concluded at the meeting or risk being caught up in elections on both continents.

In particular, Mr Nunes said the EU’s offer to Mercosur — whose full members include Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, as well as Brazil — was not generous enough on offering additional access for beef and sugar. He said the offer as it stands would be difficult to sell to Brazil’s congress.

But EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan shot back on Wednesday that the EU had “made a clear and explicit offer” to the Mercosur countries in January.

“The Mercosur countries have delayed their response to our meaningful offer. If these negotiations are to conclude, then Mercosur must deliver on cars and car parts, maritime, dairy and geographical indications,” Mr Hogan said in a statement.

Geographic indications are place names used to identify the origin and quality, reputation or other characteristics of products — for example, certain cheeses.

“There is a lot at stake here. Megaphone diplomacy across the ocean does not help,” Mr Hogan said.

He said EU sensitivities on beef, sugar and ethanol would have to be fully respected in the negotiations.

“If we cannot achieve a reasonable outcome in respect of all these issues, there cannot be a deal that will get the support of our Member States, our farmers and our citizens,” Mr Hogan said.

“On our side we remain ready to make the necessary efforts to push this process through the finishing line in a mutually beneficial way. I hope our Mercosur partners also remain focused, despite the political situation in some countries.”

Mr Nunes’ comments reflect fears that populists are gaining ground in elections in Brazil next month as well as in some states in Europe, with the European Parliament due for elections next year.

The Brazilian foreign minister warned that if new politicians hostile to the deal took power on both sides of the Atlantic, the talks could take another five to six years to conclude.

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