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IP/05/1081

Brussels, 1 September 2005

EU and Mercosur meet at ministerial level, Brussels 2 September 2005

On 2 September, the Commission will meet Mercosur ministers to discuss the further conduct of EU-Mercosur Association Agreement negotiations. The Commission will be represented by EU Commissioners for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Trade, Peter Mandelson, and Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer Boel. Mercosur participants include Mr Reinaldo Gargano Ostuni, Uruguay’s Foreign Minister and Mercosur’s pro-tempore Presidency, Mr Roberto Lavagna, Argentina’s Economy Minister, Mr Celso Amorim and Mr Luiz Fernando Furlan, Brazil’s Foreign Minister and Development Minister respectively, and Ms Leila Rachid, Paraguay’s Foreign Minister.

On the eve of the meeting, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: “After a period of impasse in our negotiations, the fact that this meeting is taking place is in itself a very significant step. We have set ourselves the ambitious goal of establishing the first ever region-to-region political strategic partnership. Mercosur is a key partner for the EU in Latin America, therefore, it is important that we make substantial progress on the EU-Mercosur negotiations, in order to reap the full potential of this vital relationship. At this meeting I want to give new political impetus for the further conduct of negotiations and set out how we will push this process forward in the next months."

Welcoming this important meeting, Commissioner Peter Mandelson declared: “Mercosur is one of the EU's largest trading partners. I hope to use this meeting reinforce our mutual goal of reaching an ambitious and comprehensive agreement to create the largest free trade area in the world.”

Commissioner Fischer Boel said: “I am delighted to meet with our Mercosur partners to explore ways to move forward the crucial trade relationship between our regions. In these negotiations, agriculture is of major importance to both parties and I look forward to useful discussions on this subject”.

The EU-Mercosur negotiations for an Association Agreement aim at establishing a comprehensive political and economic partnership between the two regions. It covers three pillars: a political dialogue, a co-operation pillar and a trade chapter. When concluded, an EU-Mercosur agreement will create the largest free trade area in the world, covering almost 700 million people.

The trade negotiations aim at creating a free trade area between both regions covering goods, services, investment and public procurement, as well as rules and disciplines for all sectors subject to negotiations. This agreement aims at cutting tariffs for substantially all trade between both parties, thus providing for significant trade opportunities.

The previous EU-Mercosur ministerial meeting was held in Lisbon in October 2004. On that occasion Ministers acknowledged that significant progress had been made towards the establishment of an Association Agreement, including a free trade area. However, they concurred that more needed to be done to reach the level of ambition that reflects the strategic importance that both parties attach to this agreement. Ministers agreed to take some time to reflect on how to conduct further negotiations, and to re-convene in 2005 to discuss the way forward. Various contacts at officials’ level have taken place in the meantime to prepare the Ministerial meeting on
2 September.

More information on EU-Mercosur relations:

http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/mercosur/intro/

More information on the EU trade links:

http://ec.europa.eu/trade/issues/bilateral/regions/mercosur/index_en.htm

A press conference will be held after the ministerial meeting (around 19:00) in the Berlaymont building (not in the press room). In order to assist journalists in accessing to the room, those wishing to attend the press conference are requested to notify the Commission Press Services before Friday 2 September at 10:00. Contact: Concha Fernández de la Puente, 02-29.52977, concha.fernandez-puente@ec.europa.eu


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