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Tuesday 19 January 2010

Patricia Covarrubia

The EU meeting with Latin America: will be May the month to see Association Agreements between the two?

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Newspapers from different countries appear to have woken up with optimistic moods. From two different Latin America blocs I examined that Mercosur and the nations of Isthmus are confident to resume negotiations on Association Agreements between the blocs.

The proposal comes after the Spain Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, asked the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, to resume negotiations and to reach an agreement with Latin American blocs during the Spanish presidency. The proposal is to sign the agreements during the Ibero-American summit to be held in Madrid in May.

There appears to be a consensus of willingness, but is this enough?

Starting with MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), this exchange offer was launched in 2001, but after many ideas and dialogue, the talks ended in 2004. Last week, during a speech to the European Parliament, the EU trade commissioner (designated), Karel de Gucht said he favoured continuation of the negotiations with Mercosur. He extended his view by saying: "We are ready to resume negotiations as long as our partners are ready too".
However, according to Gustavo Martín Prada, EU ambassador in Argentina and returning to Brussels to take charge of the Department of Latin American Affairs, he explained that the challenging matters do remain the same: for Mercosur, the sensitive issues are some industries, services and also intellectual property; for the EU, the sensitive issue is agriculture.

Moving on, the nations of Isthmus (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Panamá) had already started negotiations but were suspended after the coup in Honduras (June 2009). The EU Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who is visiting Guatemala, is urging to resume negotiations between both blocs. She says: "We are firmly committed to completing a successful deal (...), both sides must be flexible and sensible.
However, Mario Yarzebski, coordinator of the Business for International Negotiations, says that it takes "more than willing, since an offer was presented by the Isthmus nations and the EU has not replied”.

I do have to agree with Mr Yarsebski, ‘it takes more than willing’. Nevertheless, ‘it needs two to tango’ and as far as both (blocs) are trying to coordinate their dancing steps to do a perfect routine, well then I believe that the prospect looks hopeful.

Click here for an early post regarding the EU and both Peru and Colombia's Free Trade Agreement which also mention IP as a sensitive issue.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia