EU, Mercosur officials say no trade deal expected this year

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Negotiations for a trade deal between the European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur will extend into next year, officials from both sides said on Wednesday, after the Europeans asked for more time to analyze proposed changes.

Negotiators for Mercosur - comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay - indicated to their European counterparts some improvements they would be willing to make to their offers during talks on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization conference in Buenos Aires this week.

But the EU did not improve its offer setting import allotments for beef and ethanol, two major Mercosur exports, Uruguay’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The agricultural sectors in countries like France and Ireland have voiced fierce objections to an increase in imports.

“The European commissioners need to check in and be sure they have backing to be able to respond to the proposals we presented,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes told reporters on Wednesday.

Mercosur members had been hoping to announce a political framework for a deal either at the WTO meeting, which concluded on Wednesday, or at the bloc’s summit in Brasilia on Dec. 21.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the two parties were “weeks away” from announcing an agreement, noting that she still needed to explain it to member countries and the European parliament.

“We are simply not there yet,” she told reporters.

Reporting by Luc Cohen and Maximiliano Rizzi; Editing by Peter Cooney