Brussels continues pursuit of elusive Mercosur trade deal

The European Commission dispatched Polish Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska for talks with Argentine President Mauricio Macri. [Mauricio Macri/ Flickr]

Argentine President Mauricio Macri met with Internal Market Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska on Tuesday (6 December) to discuss strengthening ties between the European Union and the Mercosur trading bloc. EURACTIV Spain reports.

The Polish Commissioner, tasked with the internal market, industry and entrepreneurship portfolio, met with the Argentine leader to speak about boosting relations between the two blocs, presidential sources told EFE.

Argentina is seen as one of the EU’s most accommodating partners in the South America trade bloc, after it elected pro-business President Macri this time last year. The former civil engineer has set the brokering of an EU/Mercosur deal as a one his government’s main priorities.

The aim of the “formal meeting” had been previously set out by the European delegation as being to “facilitate European companies to revitalise their production structures with commercial ties with their Argentinian counterparts, deepening investment and technology transfer”.

Mercosur to consider trade deal with United Kingdom

The EU and South America’s Mercosur bloc could strike a free trade deal within two years, according to Argentina’s Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun. After Brexit, Mercosur would be open to a separate trade deal with the UK.

Foreign minister Susana Malcorra, Production Minister Francisco Cabrera and Secretary of Strategic Affairs Fulvio Pompeo were all present at the meeting.

Bieńkowska’s two day trip to Argentina concluded yesterday (7 December) and she also had another meeting with Malcorra, as well as Head of Cabinet Marcos Peña, Energy Minister Juan José Aranguren, Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay and Science and Technology Minister Lino Barañao.

EU-Mercosur deal hits fresh setback

The President of South American trade bloc Mercosur’s parliament (Parlasur) thinks that the EU’s current tabled offer is “unsatisfactory” and made it clear that it shouldn’t be signed in its current form. EURACTIV Spain reports.

Bieńkowska used her time with Malcorra to discuss a date for Macri’s forthcoming visit to Brussels, which the EU hopes will accelerate the Mercosur talks, which were relaunched in 2010.

The European delegation also included a number of business representatives from the energy, telecommunications, banking, food processing and metalworking sectors.

Background

The EU is currently negotiating a trade agreement with Mercosur as part of the overall negotiation for a bi-regional Association Agreement which also cover a political and a cooperation pillar.

Mercosur is composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, while Bolivia is in the process of accession.

The objective is to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement, covering not only trade in industrial and agricultural goods but also services and establishment and government procurement, and the improvement of rules inter alia on government procurement, intellectual property, customs and trade facilitation, and technical barriers to trade.

The EU is Mercosur's first trading partner, accounting for 20% of Mercosur's total trade in 2013. EU-Mercosur trade in that year was €110 billion.