Brazil and the European Union want to get a little bit closer. EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso received Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff on Monday, and both leaders agreed that a free trade agreement between Mercosur and the EU was long overdue – and set May 2014 as the deadline for a draft.
“Negotiations need to be concreted as soon as possible,” said Rousseff in the press conference after the meeting. The president alluded to the massive delay in the talks between the Mercado Común del Sur – the South American trade block composed of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Brazil – and the European authorities, which started in 2010 but never reached any consensus.
Nothing has been signed yet, and both sides have made it clear that the rest of the members of Mercosur will have a say, too – but judging by the eagerness of both Barroso and Rousseff, it is a safe bet that the meeting was a push forward to greater cooperation between both blocks.
“It is an ambitious agreement, it goes beyond trade,” said Barroso during the press conference, pointing out that there were disagreements over very specific aspects of a potential deal. The president said that the EU is planning on signing several free trade agreements, and South America is one of its priorities.
“It would be a real shame not to reach an agreement with Mercosur,” he added. Rousseff, on the other hand, said the chance of a deal being signed is “real and concrete.”
Previous negotiations were stalled on account of Argentina’s economic problems, but with the country’s slight recuperation, Rousseff said that she does not think the Argentine government will constitute any problem.
Aside from the trade talk, Rousseff and Barroso also agreed on the installation of an undersea optical fiber cable between Lisbon and the Brazilian town of Fortaleza. The goal is to improve the communication between both sides of the Atlantic without going through U.S. territory, as a way to avoid a recurrence in the surveillance scandal of last year – an affront that Rousseff did not take lightly.
The project will be carried out by a Brazilian private consortium, which includes Brazil’s operator Telebras (BVMF:TELB3) and Spanish company IslaLink Submarine Cable. The EU has expressed an interest in investing in the project – which could help in raising the $185 million needed to complete the project.
The digital cooperation agenda between Brazil and Europe does not stop here. In April, Sao Paulo will be host of a multimedia summit that will reunite EU and Brazilian officials.