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'It's time to conclude it' - von der Leyen commits to completing EU-Mercosur deal by end of year

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meet at Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, June 12, 2023
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, right, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meet at Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, June 12, 2023 Copyright Gustavo Moreno/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Gustavo Moreno/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Stefan Grobe with Isabel da Silva
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The European Commission President toured countries in the region this week, as she looked to get backing for the long-delayed trade agreement.

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Ursula von der Leyen has said it is time to wrap up the trade deal between the EU and Mercosur countries after years of standstill.

The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is currently touring Latin America, as she looks to shore up support for the agreement ahead of negotiations at the end of the month.

Given the changing geopolitical environment, the EU sees the continent as an increasingly important ally and no longers wants to be seen to be neglecting the region.

Speaking alongside Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday, von der Leyen urged all parties to speed up talks.

"We both believe that it is now the time to conclude the EU-Mercosur agreement," she said.

"We have the ambition, the two of us, to get it done as soon as possible, at the latest by the end of the year."

The deal between the EU and the Mercosur bloc - Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay - has been in the making for over two decades.

In March, the EU sent a letter to Mercosur seeking to establish stricter environmental requirements for South American countries in order to convince European nations to ratify the deal.

But the Brazilians resent these changes at the 11th hour and suspect looming European sanctions, as Lula da Silva explained.

"The premise that must exist between strategic partners is that of mutual trust, not mistrust and sanctions," he said.

The letter from March does not explicitly mention sanctions, but rather proposes to make mandatory some of the environmental goals established by the Paris Agreement.

At least three EU countries already threatened not to ratify the trade pact without stricter climate requirements.

Nonetheless, analysts, including Adrian Bonilla, executive director of the EU-LAC Foundation, are optimistic.

"We must remember that trade between the EU and Mercosur countries has increased over the last 20 years, even without an agreement. Every strategic difficulty stems from political will," he told Euronews.

Von der Leyen also met with Argentinian president Alberto Angel Fernandez in Buenos Aires on Tuesday, where a memorandum of understanding on stronger cooperation on sustainable raw materials was signed.

She will then continue her trip through Latin America heading to Chile and Mexico next.

As far as the Mercosur trade agreement is concerned, negotiators from both sides are scheduled to meet at the end of June.

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