EU trade chief still backs Mercosur deal despite objections

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The EU's chief trade representative believes a deal with the Mercosur nations can still be reached in the coming months, despite recent setbacks.

The EU's chief trade negotiator has backed Brussels to finalize a deal with the Mercosur group of South American nations despite numerous setbacks in recent weeks, including an attack on the proposals from the French president.

It had been anticipated that a final agreement between the sides could be reached before Mercosur's annual summit last week, but these hopes were dashed after Argentina signaled it would have to wait for the approval of incoming president Javier Milei before making any new commitments.

Elsewhere, Emmanuel Macron also voiced his opposition to the deal, saying: "I can’t ask our farmers, our industrialists in France, but also everywhere in Europe, to make efforts to apply new rules to decarbonize . . . and then say all of a sudden, ‘I’m removing all the tariffs to allow products to enter which do not apply these rules’.”

However, despite these setbacks, EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said that the majority of EU governments backed the deal and Mr Macron's concerns would be addressed in the final agreement.

He told the Financial Times that climate-related issues would be an "essential element" of the deal and the EU already has measures in place to ban the import of any goods made using deforested land or other carbon-intensive processes.

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has also criticized Mr Macron's position as "protectionist".

Mr Dombrovskis said he was confident a final deal can be reached by the middle of 2024, which would mean it will be up to the next European Parliament, which is set to be elected in June, to ratify the deal.

The European Commission notes that if completed, an EU-Mercosur pact would create a market of 780 million people and save EU companies more than €4 billion a year by removing tariffs. Last year, goods trade between the two blocs was worth €119 billion.

“This is an agreement of major geopolitical and economic importance. We are committed to try to . . . finalize this agreement,” Mr Dombrovskis added.