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April 21, 2014

Interview with eu ambassador in argentina alfonso diez torres

Sunday, December 22, 2013

‘If we don’t reach an agreement now, there won’t be a next time’

By Fermín Koop
Herald Staff

The head of the European Union delegation in Argentina, Ambassador Alfonso Diez Torres, had some busy days after the European Union decided to postpone until January negotiations with Mercosur over a free trade agreement. Secretary of International Economic Relations Carlos Bianco was charged with meeting with Diez Torres last week to express Argentina’s discontent at the delay.

Why did the European Union postpone until next year negotiations with Mercosur over the free trade agreement?

There were several misunderstandings regarding that issue. The EU has its offer for the free trade agreement almost finished but more certainties are needed from Mercosur since its offer is not consolidated yet. In order to assure Mercosur has really changed its views and since we are close to the holidays, we suggested continuing in January and holding a meeting with the lead negotiators then.

What do you mean more certainties?

We don’t know the details of Mercosur’s offer since it’s not consolidated yet. It’s peculiar that some people say the EU has not finished its offer when it’s a two-part problem. We are both close to the end and because of that it’s better to continue working next year. Mercosur pledged to improve the offer it presented in previous negotiations but as far as we know they have not reached an agreement between all its members yet.

What’s the current status of the European Union’s offer?

The offer is almost finished. We are working on the final details that require an effort but there won’t be any difficulties in finishing it. It’s going to be a better offer than the one presented in previous negotiations. If Argentina is worried about a delay, that means they are interested in moving forward with the negotiations.

What do you know of Argentina’s offer?

We know Argentina has improved its offer but it is far from the parameters the two blocks had agreed to.

Did Brazil pressure Argentina to accept a common proposal?

Brazil’s interest in reaching an agreement is decisive and has grown over the months. It’s the country that wants an agreement the most. Argentina agrees from a political point of view but has some demands. That’s reasonable but since it has been a long negotiation both blocs know an agreement like this has certain limits.

Argentina has complained about the EU’s subsidies of agricultural production. It that something the EU is willing to change?

The subsidies EU currently has are fully compatible with the rules the World Trade Organization has and helps us support farmers. Those kinds of subsidies are not something to be negotiated in the agreement but we might negotiate subsidies destined for exports.

Could a deal with Mercosur help European companies get rid of excess inventory that has piled up due to the economic crisis that has struck the continent?

In a free economic market like the one we want to create competitiveness implies a challenge. It is true the EU is going through a crisis and domestic sales have dropped. But the agreement will take some time to be fully implemented and the EU also has potential risks since its companies could choose to invest in Mercosur countries instead of the EU.

Why have the blocs taken so long to reach an agreement considering negotiations began in the 1990s?

There was an incompatibility with most of the industrial sector of Argentina since its lack of development wouldn’t allow producers to do well in a competitive environment. Now we have to make a final effort because if we don’t reach an agreement now there won’t be a next time.

@ferminkoop

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