BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - South American trade bloc Mercosur will offer the European Union (EU) a faster cut in import tariffs than currently included in a trade deal proposal, but will ask for the EU to accept more of its beef imports in exchange, the Argentine negotiator said.
Mercosur, whose full members include Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, is prepared to gradually reduce tariffs on imports of European goods over a period of 10 years on a majority of products, down from 15 years or more in the current proposal, chief negotiator Horacio Reyser told Reuters in an interview.
But Mercosur members whose economies depend upon agricultural exports, will also demand a “substantial increase” in the EU’s offer in an October proposal for a quota of 70,000 tonnes of tariff-free beef imports, he said.
“At the very least, it can take a year or a year and a half until all this is ratified,” said Reyser, who will travel to Brussels next week for a fresh round of negotiations.
A European diplomat familiar with the negotiations told Reuters this week the EU was prepared to improve its offer on beef, but that it would be less than 100,000 tonnes.
Reyser said Mercosur submitted a proposal to the European commission this month, outlining its conditions for a deal. He declined to give details of the proposal.
Additional reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; writing by Luc Cohen and Hugh Bronstein, editing by G Crosse