EU, Mercosur extend trade talks, Paraguay sees deal soon

Paraguay's Foreign Affairs Minister Eladio Loizaga talks to the media at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building in Asuncion, Paraguay March 2, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Adorno

ASUNCION (Reuters) - Negotiations for a trade agreement between the Mercosur trade bloc and the European Union could conclude in “two to three weeks,” Paraguay’s Foreign Minister said on Friday, as an official negotiating period ended without a deal.

Minister Eladio Loizaga of Paraguay, which chairs the South American trade bloc of Mercosur for the first half of 2018, said meetings would continue next week in person or by teleconference. Mercosur includes Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

“There are pending issues that are sensitive, like the case of cars and other issues that will continue to be negotiated in the coming weeks,” Loizaga told journalists, also mentioning agriculture.

Mercosur countries have wanted to export more beef, a concern for EU farming nations such as Ireland and France. Key issues for the European Union are an open market for cars and car parts and dairy products.

Loizaga said Mercosur colleagues would have the chance to keep debating the agreement in Paraguay’s capital Asuncion through next week, when they are also scheduled to negotiate a trade deal with Canada.

“There will be meetings... to try to finish this in some two to three weeks,” he said.

Talks in Asuncion started on Feb. 21. The previous round in Brussels ended on Feb. 9.

Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Bernadette Baum