Mercosur deal by Christmas 'realistic', claims Trade Commissioner

REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
Cecilia Malstrom

Sarah Collins

The European Commission is still pushing for a trade deal with Mercosur by year's end, despite a coalition of up to 14 countries - including Ireland and France - urging a slowdown.

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström (inset) has said that reaching a deal by Christmas is "realistic" and that there is "very strong support" for it in the EU.

Mercosur countries want to ink an agreement at a mid-December ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in Buenos Aires.

The Commission also wants to speed things up, as it believes a general election in Brazil next year will put paid to the deal.

"There is a window of opportunity that doesn't go very far," said Ms Malmström after a meeting of EU trade ministers last week.

But France hit back, calling on the Commission to hit pause on the deal and urging negotiators not to "fetishise" over dates.

"There is still life after Buenos Aires," said Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, France's junior foreign minister.

Last month the EU made an offer to Mercosur - Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay - that included lower tariffs on 70,000 tonnes of beef imports. Irish and French farmers say this is too high, and complain it will flood the EU market with lower-quality South American beef.

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The news comes after a new European Commission report found that agriculture and cars have benefited the most from existing EU trade deals.

The report also found that EU countries are not using up their available export quotas for agri-food products, and pointed to persistent problems with market access for beef under a 2011 trade deal with South Korea.

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