After several informal meetings during the first months of 2010, the European Commission officially expressed its support to the re-launching of negotiations to sign an Association Agreement with MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay).
At the end of 2009, when Argentina and Spain assumed the pro tempore presidencies of MERCOSUR and the EU (European Union), respectively, the idea of refloating the bi-regional agreement -stalled since 2004- was already in the air. After the EU-Brazil Summit in 2009, and the establishment of a strategic partnership between Brazil and France, all MERCOSUR countries (but most especially Argentina) have been actively seeking to associate themselves with the diplomatic efforts being made by their bigger partner to strengthen trade and political relations with the EU. On the EU´s side, the shrinking of international markets due to the international economic crisis and the dynamism of emerging economies, have attracted attention towards MERCOSUR economies. Both China and the USA have already been expanding their participation and preferential agreements in the South American region, making it daily more costly for the EU not to sign its own agreement with MERCOSUR.
The problems that caused the negotiations to stall in 2004, after commencing in 1995, are much the same as those currently blocking the Doha Round negotiations. EU developed countries demanded market access and government procurement preferences, as well as enhanced liberalization of goods and services trade, but were unwilling to eliminate agricultural-industry subsidies and barriers to trade for more efficiently produced farm goods coming from agricultural giants Argentina and Brazil. Given this stagnation of the “development agenda”, negotiations were left unfinished.
Most analysts agree that the official re-launching of bi-regional negotiations, expected to occur at the EU – Latin America and the Caribbean (EU-LAC) Summit to be held in Madrid on 18th May 2010, necessarily implies a revision of the EU position as a sine qua noncondition for the negotiations to advance further than they did six years ago.
Though the press release published by the European Commission in relation to the re-launching makes only passing mention of the subject, it is probable that some concessions have already been agreed to in informal meetings. If this is the case, then the re-launching of the EU-MERCOSUR negotiations might also mean flexibilization of the positions stopping the advancement of the Doha Round negotiations.