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Analysis: Twenty years on, EU turns cold on Mercosur trade deal

- REUTERS - Mar 19, 2021 -

FILE PHOTO: Negotiators of the Latin American bloc Mercosur (L) and the European Union meet to continue discussions on a free trade deal, in Luque, Paraguay February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - As the European Union looks forward to a fresh start with the United States under a new president, it is riddled with doubts over another transatlantic relationship.

A trade pact struck in 2019 with the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay after two decades of talks promised to be the EU’s largest deal, with the removal of 4 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of import tariffs on its products.

But two years later, it is unclear when - or whether - it will enter force due to Europe’s concerns over Amazon deforestation and scepticism about Brazil’s commitment to tackling climate change under President Jair Bolsonaro.

The doubts are amplified by a new EU trade strategy unveiled in February that says would-be partners of the world’s richest trade bloc should uphold standards on the environment and labour rights.

While few noticed when the EU began talks with Mercosur in 1999, scrutiny of trade deals has since intensified, particularly after the bloc launched Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the United States in 2013, drawing mass protests.

The EU seeks greater cooperation with the United States on trade now U.S. President Joe Biden has replaced Donald Trump, but TTIP talks, suspended in 2016, will not be revived.

The Mercosur saga is being closely watched by other potential partners, aware that an investment accord agreed with China in December also faces close inspection.


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