Even though reports from a couple of weeks ago speculated with the possibility that authorities from the Mercosur trading bloc and the European Union announced the signing of the ever-negotiated free trade agreement during the G20, the possibility faded during the past days.
And today, French president Emmanuel Macron officially confirmed that will not happen.
Answering a questionnaire from La Nación, the French head of state said: “I have told Macri: France is in favor of a commercial agreement that is of mutual benefit for the European Union and the Mercosur. Same as it happens in Argentina, we have particular sensitivity when it comes to the agricultural sector, especially in the French beef sector. During the last months, much progress was made on several issues, but we still have not reached a position to conclude [the announcement of the agreement]. We must also take into account the growing and legitimate concerns of our societies with regards to sanitation and the environment,” Macron’s answer to the news site reads.
According to Noticias Argentinas agency, now, the goal is to make a standard announcement, ratifying both parties’ political willingness to reach the agreement in the near future. Argentine Secretary of International Relations, Horacio Reyser, told the agency that the agreement is “95 percent closed,” while member of the European Parliament, Portuguese Francisco Assis, had said that the negotiations were “in a decisive moment.”
Besides the persistent differences over livestock products, diverging stances on the dairy, auto-parts and maritime services sectors have to be cleared before making the announcement.
A new contentious issue is the potential approach from Brazil’s incumbent President, Jair Bolsonaro, taking into account that a faction of his future government favors protectionism, and in contrast, his future economy minister, Paulo Guedes, is a liberal who has already indicated that the trading bloc will not be a priority in his economic agenda.
Macron addressed this issue saying that he “didn’t have the chance to meet Bolsonaro,” but that Brazil’s new reality “raises strong concerns.” “It is likely this will have repercussions over the commercial discussions between the Mercosur and the EU. In any case, I am convinced that France and Argentina understand each other and will favor a balanced agreement,” Macron wrote.
The French President arrived in the country on Wednesday night. Today, he will have a bilateral meeting with Macri at 12 PM, and then both heads of state will share a lunch at the “El Descanso” island, in the delta located in the district of Tigre.