Saturday 1 October 2016

Mercosur turmoil puts EU deal in jeopardy

Declan O'Brien

Published 17/08/2016 | 02:30

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 12, 2016
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 12, 2016

In-fighting among members of South America's Mercosur trading bloc could torpedo plans to open formal trade talks with the EU this autumn.

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The EU and Mercosur were due to move to formal negotiations in October but a major split in the South American group has emerged between Venezuela and the founding members of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

The three states have refused to recognise Venezuela's presidency of the trading bloc, accusing the socialist-led state of failing to comply with the conditions governing full membership. Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro accused his partners in Mercosur of acting like "torturers".

The Mercosur dispute has come at a critical time for the trade talks with the EU.

The talks process has already sparked criticism within the EU, with France and Ireland strongly opposed to any deal that allows for the importation of South American beef.

The EU Commission attempted to remove beef and ethanol from the talks process earlier this summer, a move which has been challenged by Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil. The trading blocs have since agreed to exchange revised position papers in September, with a view to holding negotiations in mid-October.

However, the political turmoil within Mercosur could undermine the talks process.

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