Monday, June 17, 2024

ECONOMY | 31-01-2023 13:14

EU, Mercosur trade deal possible soon, says European official

European Union hopes to finalise trade deal with Mercosur by July, says top EU official.

The EU hopes to finalise a trade deal with South American bloc Mercosur by July, European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has told AFP.

Mercosur – comprised of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – reached a deal with the European Union in 2019 following 20 years of negotiations, but it has yet to be ratified.

One of the main stumbling blocks has been concerns over the environmental policies of Brazil's far-right now ex-president Jair Bolsonaro.

Leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, sworn in as president on January 1, has vowed to restart talks.

"I hope we can do this [conclude the deal] before the next summit with Latin America" on July 17 and 18 in Brussels, Timmermans told AFP Monday on the last day of a tour of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

He said Brazil's new leadership made a successful outcome more likely.

"We are no longer dealing with a government that is actively promoting deforestation. This is a government that is actively fighting against deforestation," said Timmermans.

Average annual deforestation during Bolsonaro's four-year term rose by 59.5 percent from the previous four years, and by 75.5 percent from the previous decade, according to government figures.

Lula had presided over a sharp drop in deforestation when he previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, and has vowed to reboot environmental protection.

He has said the EU trade deal was "urgent," but stressed on the campaign trail that further negotiation was needed to ensure Brazil can pursue "our interest in reindustrialising."

On Monday, Lula told visiting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who had also travelled to Chile and Argentina, that "we will close that agreement, if everything goes well" by the summer.

Scholz said in Buenos Aires on Saturday a "quick conclusion" was needed.

Mercosur itself has also been shaken by disagreement over a free trade treaty with China sought by bloc member Uruguay.

Uruguay has also applied to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – a trade agreement involving countries across eastern Asia, the Pacific, and North and South America – without the agreement of its Mercosur partners.

Lula, on a visit to Uruguay this month, called for Mercosur to urgently seal the EU trade deal before negotiating with China.



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