In the 52nd summit of the Southern Common Market, or Mercosur, Tuesday member and associated states confirmed their commitment to strengthening regional integration and urged the completion of the two-decade-long negotiations with the European Union for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez, who assumed the pro-tempore presidency of Mercosur warned “we are not willing to squander our time in eternal negotiations. It is not a threat, it is dignity and responsibility.”
Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes highlighted that current negotiations were restarted during his pro-tempore presidency in 2015, and said, “we trust that these important negotiations can move towards an equitable agreement that truly enshrines free trade between the parties, without hindering productive efficiency, especially in the agricultural sector of our countries.”
The greatest obstacles to the EU-Mercosur FTA have been quotas on Mercosur beef, exports of ethanol and dairy products, the automotive industry, and preferential access for EU companies to participate in public contracting.
Despite persistent disagreements, South American leaders are determined to reach a deal.
Brazil’s un-elected President Michel Temer said the FTA was “essential” to create employment and secure well-being.
Their optimism is not shared by organized workers, social movements, academics and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who reject the FTA, criticizing the secretive and “undemocratic” character of inter-bloc negotiations.
In South America, they mostly fear an open market policy of industrial goods and access to public contracting that would have negative repercussions on small and medium-sized businesses, causing, in turn, a rise in unemployment.
In Europe, agricultural and environmental sectors also reject the potential FTA. They worry about the effects the influx of cheaper agricultural produce would have on their own industries, and the effects that boosting the cattle industry in South America could have on the environment.