EU, Mercosur Negotiators Report Progress, Schedule Future Meetings
Negotiators meeting to advance a planned EU-Mercosur Association Agreement, including a free trade deal, finished their 27th round of talks last Friday in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In a joint communiqué issued on 27 March, officials said that they have made significant headway in the three key areas of the future Association Agreement, which includes the above-mentioned deal on trade, as well as sections on enhancing political dialogue and cooperation between the blocs.
The lead-up to this latest round had seen officials express a heightened interest in bringing the long-running talks closer to conclusion, after years of on-and-off progress. Talks for an EU-Mercosur deal kicked off in 1999 and were later re-launched in 2010, only to flounder in 2012. Momentum began to pick up again last year. (See Bridges Weekly, 23 March 2017)
Mercosur members include Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela, though Venezuela is only an observer in the negotiations with the EU, given that it joined the South American customs union long after those talks began.
Progress announced, upcoming rounds
After last week’s meetings, officials said that they now have in place a common negotiating text to work from in every area of the planned Association Agreement. Notably, they confirmed that the chapter on competition policy has been fully concluded, building off of the progress seen during the previous round in October, while negotiators also worked to advance texts across all trade deal topics. Additional detail on the level of progress made in each area had not been issued at press time.
On trade, negotiators are working to clinch a deal on topics such as goods and services market access, rules of origin, sustainable development, intellectual property, and public procurement, among various other topics.
The EU and Mercosur already have in place a “Framework Cooperation Agreement,” which dates back to 1999 when the former was known as the European Community. That accord was designed to lay the groundwork for developing a future “association” deal, and also calls for boosting trade and economic cooperation.
Among the supporters of the potential trade accord are auto suppliers on both sides of the Atlantic, who have suggested that lowering tariff barriers could lead to significant economic gains. However, the topic of agricultural goods has long been among the most difficult for the two sides, having previously prevented progress in the larger negotiations.
Officials have already announced plans for subsequent meetings, including an inter-sessional meeting specifically on trade in the Argentine capital in May, followed two months by a formal round in Brussels, Belgium.
ICTSD reporting; “Con ‘avances significativos’, concluyó nueva ronda de negociaciones entre el Mercosur y la UE,” ÁMBITO, 24 March 2017; “EU Suppliers Push for Mercosur Trade Deal,” WARDSAUTO, 22 March 2017; “Brazilian Manufacturer Eager to Ink EU-Mercosur Deal,” WARDSAUTO, 28 March 2017.