AFPCumbre of the Mercosur Opens in Argentina with a Call for a Greater Balance with the EU
The foreign ministers of Mercosur opened a meeting on Monday with the call for Argentina to “update” the trade agreement reached with the European Union and have more balanced relations between the two blocs, in amid tensions due to the hardening of environmental demands from Brussels. Argentina “shares the objective of advancing with the Mercosur-EU agreement”, an issue that will dominate the summit talks between the bloc’s heads of state on Tuesday, said the Argentine foreign minister , Santiago Cafiero, at the opening of the meeting in Puerto Iguazú (northeast).
“The deepening of the link between (the blocks) is a necessary policy in an international context of conflict and growing uncertainty,” said the minister, whose country He holds until Tuesday the pro tempore presidency of the group that is completed by Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The EU and Mercosur are trying to finalize a free trade agreement after reaching an agreement in principle in 2019, after more than two decades of tough negotiations, It has not yet been ratified.
Resistance from the agricultural sectors of some European countries and, in recent years, concern in the old continent about the environmental policies of former Brazilian far-right president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022) paralyzed progress. “The agreement has good results for both parties, it is necessary to work and update the 2019 texts,” said Cafiero. “As it was closed (the text) reflects an unequal effort between asymmetric blocks and does not respond to the current international scenario,” added the Argentine foreign minister.
As an example, he cited that while Mercosur must release tariffs on 95% of European agricultural exports, the EU must only do the same with 82% of its agricultural imports from the South American bloc. The return to power in Brazil from Leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in January gave new impetus to the dialogue, but the environmental demands of the Europeans, contained in an additional document to the agreement presented in March by the EU, generated resentment among the South Americans.
According to Cafiero, the European text “presents a partial vision” of sustainable development, with an “excessive” focus on the environmental issue and “scarce consideration” of the economic and social outlook in the Mercosur countries, large agricultural producers. On this issue, he pointed out, the European Union would have done demands that go beyond multilateral commitments and “omits” how the bloc’s developing countries should implement them.
The issue is expected to be on the table when Lula joins his Argentine counterpart Alberto Fernández, Uruguayan Luis Lacalle Pou and the Paraguayan Mario Abdo. But it is ruled out that the meeting, held near the triple border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, with the imposing Iguazú Falls in the background, delivers a consensus response to European demands on environmental protection.
On your side, Brazil, the main economy in Latin America, will deliver a “counterproposal” to the EU in “a few days” to its partners, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira said during the meeting, according to an official note.
El Mercosur , founded in 1991, also reached the summit in the midst of a new chapter of tensions caused by the group’s own asymmetries. Uruguay, the smallest economy along with Paraguay, once again denounced the “inmobility” of the bloc.
“We must recognize ourselves and seek not what we would like, but what we can really be: a free trade zone”, said its foreign minister Francisco Bustillo. even that “without any doubt” Uruguay will have to consider at “some moment” the possibility of reforming its presence in Mercosur.
“Whether to modify the founding treaty itself, or eventually consider the possibility (…) of becoming an associated State,” he said at a press conference after the meeting, quoted by the Uruguayan press. Vieira announced that the bloc will resume work -suspended since 2019- for the accession of Bolivia as a full member of the group, which currently comprises 62% of the South American population and 67% of its GDP. But there was no mention of an eventual return to the Venezuelan bloc, suspended in 2017, a position defended by Brazil. At the end of the summit, Lula will receive the pro tempore presidency of Mercosur until end of year.