Trade agreements. Representatives of the European Union (EU) and the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) will hold a ministerial meeting on January 30 in Brussels in order to finalize the negotiations to sign the trade agreement between the two regional blocs. In December of last year, during the WTO summit in Buenos Aires, the emissaries of both blocs had already met to advance the agreement. However, differences regarding the meat trade and the protection of the “appellation of origin” for products such as cheese and wine, prevented the signing of the agreement last month. In the meeting scheduled for January 30th, the agenda of the negotiations will focus on these points.
The spokesman of Commerce of the European Commission (Comercio de la Comisión Europea), Daniel Rosario, said: ‘We hope that all efforts made up to now and the fact that we are about to close the trade agreement are considered in this meeting. Also, we wish that this encounter paves the way for possible necessary steps that should come afterwards.’
Since 1999, the EU and Mercosur have sought an agreement to strengthen their commercial relations. Although the greatest advances in the negotiations occurred in 2017, there are still some critical issues. For example, free access to the European market of agricultural products, in particular of beef.
In October, the EU offered to allow a tariff-free access to 70,000 tonnes of beef produced in Mercosur to the European market. The proposal was thought to be insufficient by the negotiators of the South American group, whose four members are among the ten largest exporters of beef in the world. Instead, they want the quota to be of 390,000 tons, which represents 5% of the European market.
The EU offer was also questioned by the entities that bring together agricultural producers. In a market of 508 million people, an income of 70,000 tons of meat is equivalent to 138 grams per capita per year, that is, one hamburger per capita in one year. “The day every European eats a hamburger, the whole offer the European Union made us will be consumed,” said Daniel Belerati, vice president of the Mercosur Meat Forum (Foro Mercosur de la Carne). This institution gathers producers’ associations and refrigerators and advises the governments of the South American countries in the negotiations.
The following meeting between Mercosur and the EU will depend on the outcome of the negotiations reached at the ministerial meeting on January 30th, as well as the agreements that each bloc makes among its member countries.