By Antonio Torres del Cerro
Paris, Jun 24 (EFE).- Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva concluded a European tour Saturday by setting a year-end deadline for the successful conclusion of trade negotiations between the European Union and Mercosur that began more than two decades ago.
“We the need the accord with the EU and the EU also needs it, because the EU can’t remain as if it were a slice of sausage between the United States and China,” he said during a press conference at a hotel in Paris.
Lula began his trip in Rome, where he met with Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella, and prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, as well as with Pope Francis.
He then traveled to Paris for the Summit on a New Global Financing Pact and bilateral encounters with French President Emmanuel Macron and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, among other leaders.
The “most important” aspect of the trip was his discussion with Macron about the EU-Mercosur process, Lula told reporters, appealing to governments to demonstrate “capability and wisdom” by resolving the issues that continue to divide the two sides.
He said that the Mercosur nations – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – cannot agree to EU demands to open public procurement to European companies, as they regard the awarding of government contracts as a vital tool to develop small and mid-size domestic firms.
Both Mercosur and the EU, Lula said, need “to put aside arrogance” in favor of “common sense.”
The Brazilian expressed understanding for the position of Macron, who currently faces a parliament that recently passed a motion rejecting the proposed agreement with Mercosur on environmental and protectionist grounds.
In a rousing speech at the summit, the 77-year-old Lula consolidated his position as a leading voice of the Global South by denouncing the international financial structure established by the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement.
That architecture, whose elements include the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, effectively made the United States dollar the global reserve currency.
During his first two terms as Brazil’s head of state, from 2003-2011, Lula was described by then-US President Barack Obama as the most popular politician in the world.
Even before he returned to office on Jan. 1, Lula signaled his intent to reassert Brazil’s importance after four years of disengagement under right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro.
Criticized in the West for his unwillingness to go along with sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Lula said Saturday that he accepts European nations have a different perspective than Brazil.
“I don’t get angry about the Europeans’ position, which is different from mine. I understand them. They are in the center of the war, I am 14,000 km (8,700 mi) away,” he said. “My position is very clear: what I don’t want is war.” EFE atc/dr