Rio de Janeiro, Dec 6 (EFE).- Foreign ministers of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) on Wednesday sought to maintain the possibility of reaching an agreement with the European Union after the latest setback in negotiations, while Paraguay expressed concern over the lack of progress and Argentina reluctance as it prepares to install a new president.
During two meetings held in Rio de Janeiro between the foreign and economic ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the bloc’s political decision-making body, known as the Common Market Council, tried to show that the dialogue with the EU will continue.
Brazil, which will hand over the six-month presidency of Mercosur to Paraguay on Thursday, was the most forceful in defending the free trade agreement with the EU-27, which has yet to be finalized after more than two decades of negotiations.
“For Mercosur, the Association Agreement with the EU has a clear strategic dimension. With this instrument, we are strengthening our bloc’s identity as a global economic player,” said Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira at the first meeting.
Paraguay calls for flexibility from the EU
Rubén Ramírez Lezcano, Foreign Minister of Paraguay, the country that will hold the bloc’s presidency in the first half of 2024, promised to “continue to work” to sign the agreement, but issued a warning:
“We will no longer pursue processes where we do not see the required flexibilities to move forward, we should not continue to wear ourselves out and waste resources,” he warned.
In addition, Ramírez Lezcano said he would focus the bloc’s efforts on strengthening ties with Asia and the Middle East, citing as an example the agreement with Singapore that Mercosur will sign at this summit.
The long-awaited agreement
Mercosur and the EU reached a political agreement in 2019, although leaving several points were still open, but various demands on both sides, especially in the agricultural and environmental fields, have since muddied the negotiating process.
Brazil had hoped to sign before the end of the year, but the frontal opposition of several European countries, led by France, and the reluctance of Argentina, on the eve of the inauguration of its new president, the ultra-liberal Javier Milei, have prevented this.
The Rio Summit will also serve to promulgate the protocol of accession of Bolivia as a new member of the Customs Union created in 1991.
The Andean country, an associate member since 1998, will now have four years to adapt its legislation to Mercosur rules. EFE