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Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Uruguay

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EU-Mercosur Agreement would be a sign of hope in an uncertain and complex world

The Negotiations on the EU-Mercosur Agreement from Uruguay's Perspective

On July 17th, at the first EU-Latin America summit in eight years, the EU-Mercosur trade agreement, which is not yet fully finalized, is set to be further consolidated and completed by the end of the year at the latest. An additional chapter is intended to address the remaining concerns about the agreement and help prevent human rights violations, environmental damage, and climate impacts. In an interview with Nicolás Albertoni, the Deputy Foreign Secretary of Uruguay, we discuss the significance of the EU-Mercosur agreement in the South American public sphere, the importance of the EU-CELAC summit for dialogue between the regions, and the need for a timely conclusion of the agreement.

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Mr. Albertoni, in the run-up to the EU-CELAC summit, many European government representatives have expressed optimism about a successful conclusion of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement in the near future. What is the status of the debate among the South American public?

Albertoni: It is important to emphasise, first of all, that the summit itself is a very important space for bi-regional dialogue. It is an instrument that has become a key bridge for dialogue between the two regions.

Given the reciprocal importance that both regions attach to each other, the holding of a new meeting represents a truly relevant platform to set the dialogues on track after the years of global pandemic that we have experienced.

In this sense, considering the expected conclusion of the Mercosur-EU agreement and the good leadership that we are sure Spain will exercise during its presidency of the Council in the second half of 2023. I believe that the South American public opinion is observing with interest the messages that the different authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have been transmitting. There is every reason to be hopeful that we are at a good moment to finally conclude and sign the agreement. 

It is important to remember that this bi-regional agreement is not only an economic agreement, but it is an agreement that will have a strong social and institutional impact given its scope and will serve to re-emphasise all the values that unite both regions.

For all these reasons, I believe this is a great moment to move forward and conclude all the work that has been done for so many years. Concluding and signing the EU-Mercosur agreement will be a sign of hope in an uncertain and complex world.

Government representatives have repeatedly criticised the sustainability chapter requested by the European side. Most recently, Paraguay’s President-elect Peña also described the environmental demands as too tough and referred to his country’s level of development, which needs to be taken into better account. How do you assess the planned sustainability chapter?

Albertoni: Our country is a global example of sustainability. It is worth noting that between 95 and 97 per cent of our energy mix is based on renewable energies. In addition, our status as a world supplier of high-quality food means that we have much to contribute to this new trade paradigm in which sustainability is a priority. We will always be on the side of the search for a more sustainable world. In fact, we are an example of this. Our country brand is “Uruguay Natural”, we do not understand development if it is not from a sustainable point of view.

Observers fear that during the negotiations for the sustainability chapter, other chapters that have actually already been concluded will also be up for discussion, thus making a conclusion of the negotiations once again a distant prospect. Brazil’s President Lula, for example, has repeatedly said that the agreement must be made more “balanced” before a final agreement can be reached. What does this criticism refer to, and on what points has the draft not been balanced so far?

Albertoni: Indeed, this is a risk that cannot be taken. Reopening other chapters would not be at all positive. As for our country, we can reiterate that Uruguay wishes to continue moving toward the conclusion of the agreement as soon as possible and we are making every effort to continue moving toward that goal.

Therefore, given the “agreement in principle” that is on the table, Uruguay understands that it is extremely important not to diversify the discussion and to concentrate on concluding and signing it.

European farmers’ associations, for their part, are demanding that the agricultural chapter be renegotiated, as domestic production is threatened with displacement by agricultural imports. Which aspects of the planned agreement are viewed critically by Uruguayan farmers? What expectations are associated with the agreement here, and do you see any scope for renegotiation, for example with regard to quotas for beef?

Albertoni: From our country it has been seen as an agreement that generates opportunities for both parties: Mercosur and the European Union. In this sense, there has been no criticism from Uruguayan farmers in this regard. It is an agreement that we understand has benefits for both regions.

Moreover, the insistence of almost all sectors in Uruguay (agricultural and industrial) is that the agreement can be concluded and signed as soon as possible.

I understand that, for both Mercosur and the European Union, the only risk of this agreement is that it is not concluded and signed. It would not be a good sign for both regions nor for the rest of the world.

How can it be ensured that agricultural imports from the Mercosur countries meet EU standards, for example in environmental and animal protection? What measures are being implemented in Uruguay to ensure corresponding standards

Albertoni: As I have insisted before, Uruguay is a world leader in environmental care and the sustainability of its agricultural production. Environmental care is part of our development matrix. Therefore, not only do we have a culture of environmental protection, but we have been advocates of other countries in the world to comply with these rules. We have environmental certifications in almost the entire production chain.

At the same time, given the technological advances applied to food production – for example, we are a world reference in traceability of livestock production –, today we have a very solid base to continue promoting sustainability in an even more precise way and to serve as an example for other countries.

Beyond the efforts made at the national level, Uruguay also understands that the exercise of multilateralism and coordination at the international level are essential to address the urgency of global environmental problems. With this conviction, the country participates actively in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as in the Convention on Biological Diversity, with the aim of protecting ecosystems and promoting the sustainable use of resources, in order to achieve sustainable development.

How do you assess the dynamics within Mercosur? Uruguay seems to like to move much more quickly and pragmatically. Are there any thoughts of seeking a bilateral agreement with the EU if the agreement is not concluded at the regional level?

Albertoni: It is true that the time that this agreement has taken to negotiate and the wait for its signature may generate a lot of anxiety. But the truth is that the agreement was closed on a regional basis and from Uruguay today we are following that path with respect to this agreement. So, we will continue to join efforts to make it happen.

Uruguay’s will is undeniably to open up to the world and to insert itself commercially in it in the most effective and efficient way possible. But for the time being, with respect to the agreement with the EU, we want it to follow its course as it was negotiated so that we can conclude and sign it promptly

This Interview is currently available in full length in German and Spanish only. 

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Gunter Rieck Moncayo

Gunter Rieck Moncayo

Economy and Trade +49 30 26996-3828 +49 30 26996-53828

André Algermißen

Algermissen, Andre

Director of the Regional Program Central Asia +49 30 26996-3945


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