BUENOS AIRES Dec 12 The European Union has
asked for a one-month delay in the exchange of proposals to kick
off free-trade negotiations with South America's Mercosur bloc,
the Argentine government said on Thursday.
Mercosur's four members, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and
Paraguay, were due to present their proposals to Brussels next
week. The proposals involve lists of imports that each side
would be prepared to liberalize in talks that have taken almost
two decades to get off the ground.
"Surprisingly, we received a request from the European Union
to put off for another month the presentation of the proposals,"
Argentine Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich told reporters.
He gave no reasons for the delay sought by Brussels.
Brazil, Mercosur's largest player, is hoping a free-trade
agreement with the EU can be signed next year, 15 years after
talks were first launched.
Attempts to negotiate a deal have stumbled repeatedly over
Mercosur access for European manufactured goods and EU access
for Mercosur's agricultural products facing high European farm
Mercosur's newest member, Venezuela, has been left out of
talks with Europe as it is not ready to compete.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by James Dalgleish)