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EU-Mercosur trade agreement is close, says European diplomat

Ⓒ AFP – THIERRY CHARLIER – | The Vice President and Commissioner of the European Union for Employment, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, Jyrki Katainen, speaks with the media at the headquarters of the Commission of the European Union, in Brussels, on June 7, 2017.

“We are thus close to having a new partnership and a commercial agreement between the European Union and Mercosur,” said European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen on Friday, putting his thumb on the index.

The graphic expression used by Katainen was the general conclusion of the meeting he held this Friday in Brasilia with the host president Michel Temer and the foreign ministers of the South American bloc to create a long-awaited, as a delayed, area of ​​trade between both regions.

“In a time that some are building walls, we want to build bridges,” he said at the Planalto Palace, surrounded by the foreign ministers of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay’s deputy foreign minister.

Both parties are working against the clock to be able to make an announcement that will seal the pact, at least on a political level, next month in Buenos Aires during the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“We end today a new round of negotiations, which I hope will be the last or the last but one, so that we can have, and that is our objective, both optimistic and realistic, the conclusion of this agreement at the end of the year,” he said. Foreign Minister of Brazil, Aloysio Nunes.

Over almost two decades, the discussions between the four Mercosur countries and those of the European bloc – which currently stands at 28 – have been marked by disagreements.

In 2004, the negotiation was suspended and was only resumed six years later with the commitment to improve the original offers.

Last month, the EU completed its offer by placing on the table quotas of 70,000 tons for beef and 600,000 tons for ethanol, two goods of high political sensitivity in the old continent.

But those numbers frustrated the South American bloc and became a new obstacle.

South American diplomats and the Brazilian government confirmed to AFP that the agreement is very close and they hope to arrive in time for Buenos Aires, although the future operation of sensitive chapters such as government purchases, some agricultural goods and intellectual property has yet to be refined.

After the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House, the EU sought to promote a free trade policy and last July reached a “political agreement” with Japan, similar to the one that now seeks to close with the South American bloc.

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