The EU-Mercosur trade negotiations take place in the context of the EU’s common commercial policy. The EU Commission leads the talks for the EU. Negotiations on an EU-Mercosur Association Agreement were launched in 2000, suspended in 2004 due to substantial differences on the trade part of the agreement, and resumed again in May 2010. Since then, nine negotiating rounds were held, the last one in October 2012. These rounds focused on trade rules. At the EU-Mercosur trade ministerial meeting held in Santiago on 26 January 2013, the EU and Mercosur agreed to exchange offers on market access concessions for goods, services and government procurement not later than in the last quarter of 2013. I understand that while the EU Commission is currently preparing the draft EU offer, it is not clear if the EU and Mercosur offers will actually be exchanged before the end of this year.
Brazil, the largest economy by far in Mercosur, is important for Ireland’s future export growth. It is identified in the Strategy for Trade, Tourism and Investment as a key priority market for trade and investment. Both Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have offices in Brazil to attract inward investment and help create new exporting business for Irish firms. Improving export performance in faster growing emerging economic blocs such as Mercosur is important for our economic recovery and for creating new jobs. Access to the EU beef market is a sensitive issue for Ireland in these negotiations. The EU Commission is very well aware of this and I expect this to be reflected in the preparation of the EU’s offer. As the Mercosur negotiations develop I will ensure our economic interests in this agreement are both promoted and defended to the fullest extent possible.