Presidency reports poor progress in EU-BRIC trade ties
By Joanna Sopinska | Thursday 21 June 2012
Denmark has admitted that despite significant efforts, the EU’s trade relations with the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) were not taken significantly forward during its six-month Presidency. Briefing members of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA), on 20 June, Pia Olsen Dyhr, Danish minister for trade and investment, did not hide her disappointment with the lack of progress, especially in the EU’s free trade negotiations with India. Improving EU access to the BRIC countries’ markets was the main trade priority for Copenhagen. “I would have liked to be in a position to say that we are now at the very final end-game [in talks with India]. But this is not the case,” Dyhr said. “There is still a number of difficult issues to be sorted out,” she added.
Copenhagen was hoping that the EU-India summit, in February, would give the political go-ahead for the conclusion of nearly five years of talks (launched in June 2007) between Brussels and New Delhi, enabling progress in relations with other BRIC countries, especially Brazil. However, the eaders of the EU and India were not able to iron out the remaining differences in three major areas - market access of goods (cars, wines and spirits), services and public procurement.
“We hope for progress during the autumn,” Dyhr said. “Unfortunately,” she added, “we seem less likely to be able to finalise talks by the end of this year”.
Equally unsuccessful were the attempts to move forward the Union’s free trade negotiations with Brazil within the framework of multilateral talks with Mercosur. “Unfortunately there has been no significant movement in EU-Mercosur FTA talks,” admitted Dyhr. The EU re-launched FTA talks with the four Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) in May 2010. The negotiations have been recently affected by elections in Argentina and France, both major players in negotiations. In addition, in the midst of one of the worst financial and economic crises in Europe, different lobbies within the EU openly voice their opposition to an FTA with the Mercosur countries. The main bone of contention is agriculture.
Despite efforts, not much progress was achieved in the EU’s relations with China either. It is still unclear when Brussels and Beijing would open talks on a new investment agreement, including market access, within the framework of the EU-China partnership and cooperation agreement negotiations, launched in 2007. Dyhr said that talks may be opened in the second part of this year.
A slightly more positive assessment was given by Dyhr about the EU’s trade relations with Russia. In the wake of a breakthrough in EU-Russia World Trade Organisation accession talks last December, both parties managed to move forward with the internal implementation of related agreements. On the same day, the INTA committee endorsed four agreements with Russia on wood exports, trade in car parts, duties on raw materials and the services market. They pave the way for Russia’s accession to the WTO.