EU, Mexico Continue Efforts to Clinch Updated Trade Deal by Year's End

7 December 2017

The EU and Mexico have concluded a sixth round of talks to update their existing trade accord, reporting advances on a series of negotiating areas and confirming that they will meet again in Brussels, Belgium, later this month in a bid to wrap up a deal.

According to a press statement from the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, the latest round included advances in areas such as goods, services, and public procurement market access. They also referred to progress on the investment court system (ICS), which the EU has been working to include in its more recent trade agreements as a replacement to the previous investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism and use as a precursor to a proposed “multilateral investment court.”

Sustainable development was also an area which saw progress, according to the EU, though the statement did not go into further detail. A blog post from the Mexican government noted that both sides have now concluded a chapter on competition policy as well as on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Negotiators will hold talks in Brussels, Belgium, from 11 December to advance negotiations further, with ministers set to join during the week of 18 December, according to the Mexican government.

According to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, during a panel discussion at “EU Trade Policy Day” in Brussels, she will also be meeting with Ildefonso Guajardo Villareal, the Mexican Economy Secretary, during the WTO ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on the subject. She noted that the two sides are aiming to reach a political agreement “either just before Christmas or right after.”

A hefty economic agenda

The two sides began negotiations to modernise their existing trade agreement since mid-2016, with officials stating at the time that this process would help ensure that their economic relationship incorporates current realities of global trade, along with the internal changes seen within their respective economies in the years since the original agreement entered into force. (See Bridges Weekly, 23 June 2016)

The original trade accord, part of their “Global Agreement,” has been in place for goods since the year 2000 and for services since the year 2001.

“The modernisation of the EU-Mexico FTA is a priority in Mexico’s trade agenda, designed to strengthen the integration with existing trading partners and to promote the diversification of economic ties in the world,” the Mexican government blog post issued on 5 December said.

Malmström, for her part, said in Brussels this week that given the age of the existing accord, “it makes a lot of sense to get it in line with current trade agreements’ quality and content.”

Between the two sides, their goods trade is concentrated mainly on fuel, machinery, telecommunications equipment, transport equipment, mining, and chemicals, according to European Commission data. They also trade extensively in services, such as those relating to transport.

Both the EU and Mexico have a busy negotiating agenda underway with a host of trading partners. The 28-nation European bloc recently launched talks to update its trade deal with Chile, while also trying to wrap up long-running negotiations with South American bloc Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. (For more on EU-Mercosur, see related story, this edition, and 23 November 2017)

Mexico, for its part, is in negotiations with the US and Canada to modernise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a process which began in August. Those talks are openly acknowledged as being in a challenging phase, with unclear prospects. (See Bridges Weekly, 23 November 2017)

Malmström commented that this week that while the EU is cognizant of that process and its dynamic, the EU-Mexico free trade accord could be one way for Mexico “to diversity their economic dependence and economy,” while being important for the 28-nation bloc as well.

The EU has a trade deal provisionally in place with one of Mexico’s NAFTA partners, Canada, though separate talks to negotiate an EU-US accord have been on hold since late 2016 given the leadership transition in the United States.

ICTSD reporting.

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