BUENOS AIRES, Dec 12 (Reuters) - 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 subsidies.
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)