South American bloc Mercosur is offering to open up 93% of its trade to competition from the European Union to seal a long-sought free-trade deal, Uruguay’s president said yesterday (22 February).
Permanent members Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay “presented a list of products and articles” they are willing to include in a free trade deal, President Tabaré Vázquez told reporters.
“More than 93% of what we produce we are making available in order to move forward with a free trade agreement” with the EU, said Vázquez, who currently holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.
“We are waiting for the European Union to decide.”
In a previous proposal in October, Mercosur had offered to open 87% of its production but some European countries rejected that as too little.
A trade deal would link two of the world’s biggest markets: the Mercosur region of nearly 300 million inhabitants and the EU of over 500 million. But an agreement has proved elusive since negotiations started in the 1990s.
Mercosur countries have had their differences in the past, but Vázquez said the main obstacle now was European farmers afraid of competition.
“The one with problems at the moment is the European Union, above all because of factors linked to agricultural protectionism,” he said.
Vázquez on Thursday will meet with the leader of one of the key players in EU farming policy, France.
French President François Hollande visits associate Mercosur member Peru plus full members Argentina and Uruguay during a South American tour on 23-26 February.
Mercosur is composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, while Bolivia is in the process of accession.