Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has urged the European Commission to do everything in its power to move forward and unfreeze progress on the Mercosur pact to send a “political signal” to China about the EU’s economic commitment to Latin America, El País has revealed.
Diplomatic sources quoted by the newspaper stressed that the Spanish government wants to put limits on China’s growing political and economic influence in Mercosur countries, which include Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, as well as in the Latin American region as a whole.
In a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday, Sánchez reportedly stressed the “strategic importance” of Latin America for Europe, despite the reluctance of some EU countries such as France to boost trade relations between the blocs.
While the EU-Mercosur agreement is currently on hold, the EU has in the last couple of years increased its economic ties with countries in the Asia-Pacific region by signing trade agreements with countries such as Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.
Negotiations with the Mercosur bloc were concluded in mid-2019, crowning a gigantic effort that spanned more than two decades. The pact, the largest negotiated ever by the EU, would see the bloc gain access to a market of 265 million people and the gradual reduction of 90% of tariff barriers within 10 years.
However, several EU countries are reluctant to move forward.
France and Germany have expressed their serious concerns about climate protection aspects, although Paris seems more concerned about the future of its powerful agriculture sector if trade barriers are lifted for products from Latin America.
Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed “considerable doubts” regarding the agreement given the extent of Latin American deforestation, among other things.
[Edited by Paula Kenny, Daniel Eck and Josie Le Blond]