French Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Brazilian Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of COP28, in Dubai, December 2, 2023. LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP
Until the end, the Commission, responsible for negotiating trade agreements, believed in it. She had identified “a rare window of opportunity” to conclude a free trade treaty with Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay), after nearly twenty-five years of discussions, and intended to force its opening . The ace ! The Mercosur summit, scheduled for Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) on December 7, which the community executive hoped would finally succeed, was canceled.
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Argentina in fact made it known on Saturday, December 2, that it would not commit before the inauguration of its new president, Javier Milei, scheduled for December 10. For the far-right elected official, the text contains, as it stands, unacceptable clauses, particularly regarding deforestation.
During the campaign, Javier Milei said he wanted to leave Mercosur and do without an environment ministry, but the Commission hoped to play on his ultra-liberal streak and obtain his political visa before he takes office. With the following reasoning: he could be satisfied with a European Union (EU)–Mercosur agreement which would benefit the Argentine economy and hold his predecessor responsible for environmental and social chapters that are hardly compatible with his doxa.
“We will continue to negotiate,” comments a source at the Commission. But no one imagines Javier Milei changing his mind in the short term. And, given negotiators’ difficulty reaching the current draft agreement, it seems unlikely that a new compromise is within reach.
Accidents along the way
“We have to ask ourselves if it is still possible to make Mercosur-type free trade agreements which are increasingly difficult to conclude,” comments a European diplomat. Beyond the commercial aspect, they include environmental, social, access to public markets and regulatory provisions, which are difficult to accept by third countries far from community standards, such as those of Mercosur or in Africa. “With Canada, Vietnam or New Zealand [avec lesquels des accords existent]it’s easier,” continues this source.
Furthermore, the EU itself is divided on the subject. If a majority of member states favor the commercial aspect of these agreements, a handful of countries led by France – Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria – are very demanding on the conditions that must be there. attached, and in particular that of respecting the Paris Agreement. However, they require unanimous adoption and a vote in the European Parliament, before being ratified by all the parliaments of the Twenty-Seven. This increases the possibilities of accidents along the way.
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