Published On: Mon, Dec 4th, 2023

Argentina’s far-right President is von der Leyen’s last chance to save major deal for EU | World | News

Argentina has emerged as a significant obstacle to the European Union‘s efforts to finalise a long-anticipated Mercosur free-trade agreement. The deal, which involves Mercosur member countries Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, faces uncertainty as Argentina’s outgoing government, led by Alberto Fernandez, expressed reluctance to make new commitments last week.

Brazil, currently presiding over Mercosur, informed the EU that sealing the trade deal this week may not be possible due to the need for approval from Argentina’s incoming government. One of the contentious issues is Argentina’s stance on deforestation, requiring a resolution before the deal can proceed.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission, remains hopeful despite the challenges. In a statement, she said ongoing intense and constructive discussions, made substantial progress in recent months. However, the situation hinges on the approval of the newly elected Argentine president, Javier Milei.

“I think it is closed. Pedro Sánchez and Josep Borrell are speaking with Alberto Fernández. The only thing missing is the final endorsement of the people of Milei. Technically, the negotiators have stepped aside. It is all at a high political level,” a high-ranking official who has been working on the topic since the beginning of the year, told La Politica Online.

Spain’s Foreign Ministry echoed the sentiment, highlighting Argentina’s crucial role in the deal. “It would be excellent if the new government did not give it a thumbs down,” stated the ministry.

Argentina’s incoming Chancellor, Diana Mondino, acknowledged the challenges but hinted at the possibility of signing the deal on December 7. Despite the hurdles, she expressed optimism about the monumental opportunities arising from agreements with the EU, EFTA, Singapore, and ASEAN.

She said: “On December 7 there is a possibility that it will be signed and at LLA we have no objections, it is frankly desirable that it come out.”

She added: “It is not only with the EU but also with the EFTA, Singapore and ASEAN, they are doors that are opening that are monumental. I hope it is signed now, Alberto [Fernandez] achieves it and takes that achievement. Much better to have the I agree that not having it.”

In Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced his opposition to the deal, citing insufficient concessions on environmental issues. Macron stressed the need for alignment with European decarbonisation efforts

He said: “I cannot ask our farmers, our industrialists in France and everywhere else in Europe to make efforts toward decarbonisation while suddenly removing all tariffs to bring in goods that aren’t subjected to these rules.”

Macron criticised what he perceived as cosmetic adjustments to the text to appease France, adding: “A few sentences were added at the beginning and at the end of the text to please France — but this isn’t working.”

The fate of the Mercosur free-trade agreement now rests on the decisions of Argentina’s President-elect Milei, with both optimism and scepticism surrounding the potential outcome on December 7.

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