Portugal will “immediately follow up” on the proposal for further clarification of the EU-Mercosur agreement that the European Commission presents, the foreign minister said on Monday, reiterating that he “strongly” expects progress on this matter during the Portuguese presidency.
Augusto Santos Silva, who was speaking to Lusa ahead of Tuesday’s informal meeting of the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs Council on Trade, where the 27 will “hold an initial debate on the trade policy review”, explained that the current impasse in concluding the political agreement with Mercosur depends on “political clarification”.
“A dialogue is underway on strengthening cooperation on the sustainable development of the agreement, considering the implementation of the Paris agreement and the deforestation issue,” the minister said, citing the European Commission’s communication and stressing that “Portugal agrees [with it], word for word,” as they are “legitimate issues” that” can be overcome.
Progress is “dependent on a first step by the European Commission because it is up to the Commission to propose this clarification”, he explained.
“What (I can say as president of the Council is that we will immediately follow up on this clarification proposal, and we strongly hope that there will be progress during the Portuguese presidency,” he said.
The minister pointed out that “moving forward under the Portuguese presidency is to clarify” the issue that “the trade agreement with Mercosur is an agreement between parties committed both to the Paris agreement and the preservation of biodiversity, which necessarily involves combating deforestation.”
The trade agreement reached in June 2019 between the EU and the Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), after two decades of negotiations, is currently in the translation and legal review phase, at the end of which, with a political agreement of the 27, the countries of both blocs will have to ratify it.
However, several member states, MEPs and civil society organisations have expressed strong reservations regarding the ratification of the agreement due to concerns regarding its compatibility with the fulfilment of the Paris Agreement and the impact it will have on global warming, pointing, among several problems, to the deforestation of the Amazon.
In an interview with Lusa in January, the executive vice-president of the European Commission with responsibility for trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said that the EU would look to Portugal “for example, in the agreement with Mercosur, mentioning the need for “support and a ‘push’ from the Portuguese presidency to move forward with the agreement.
Asked whether he expects the agreement to be referred to in Tuesday’s Council meeting, Santos Silva stressed that the meeting has a “more generic focus”, the trade policy review. Still, he acknowledged it was likely that some member states would do so.
“Not least because it is a particular case of applying a general rule – strengthening our commitment to implementing the agreements that we ourselves have concluded,” he said.