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Argentina looks for Mercosur-EU harmony

Argentinian winemakers have said they will find their own way of reaching agreement with the EU on trade if the latest round of talks fails.

The talks in June between the EU and Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) were part of a 180-nation summit in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in June.

Top Mercosur and EU trade officials met in a bid to break down global trade barriers but made little progress in creating a free trade zone covering the European Union and the four South American countries.

Now major Argentinian wine producers have said exports are at stake if agreement on harmonising tax regimes is not reached.

‘Argentina must sign a commercial agreement with the EU,’ Chandon export manager Andrés Belinsky said. ‘Some of the countries from the New World have already achieved tax reduction, since they set the process in motion long before Argentina did.’

Leandro Juarez, export manager at Catena Zapata winery said prices would inevitably rise if common ground with the EU wasn’t found.

‘Argentine wineries are investmenting and promoting their products, and competitive prices should come with that. But that is exactly what is in jeopardy if we do not sign an agreement,’ he said.

Winemakers are also worried about losing ground to neighbours. Juan Canay at Trapiche winery said, ‘Argentina must sign as soon as possible, since competitors like Chile are selling their wines with ever greater discounts.’

One of the problems is the marked difference in production in the Mercosur countries, which means they find it difficult to present a unified front in negotiations.

While Argentina produces 19m hectolitres, Brazil barely produces 3m and Uruguay produces 1m.

Juan Carlos Pina of the Bodegas de Argentina association said, ‘Both Brazil and Uruguay are mainly importers and they want to protect their internal market from European markets.

‘That is not the case with Argentina, which is only interested in entering new markets. Besides, wine is not a key product for Mercosur. It is just one more product among others.’

Written by Jaquelina Jimena

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