EFTA parliamentarians visit Argentina and Brazil to give momentum to negotiations on trade agreement with Mercosur

Published 26-03-2024
Parliamenterians from the EFTA States meeting with the Speaker of the Senate in Brasilia.

A delegation of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee (EFTA PC) has returned from a successful five-day official visit to Argentina and Brazil from 18 to 22 March to add political momentum to negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between EFTA and Mercosur – five years after an agreement in substance was reached in 2019.

As Chair of the EFTA PC, Mr Thomas Aeschi from the Swiss Parliament led the delegation, made up of eight parliamentarians from the four EFTA States. Ms Sigríður Mogensen and Mr Kim Sivertsen joined them as representatives of the EFTA Consultative Committee, a forum for trade unions and business associations from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The committee members began their visit in Argentina. Their counterparts from the National Congress of Argentina – Mr Fransisco Manuel Paoltroni (Chair) and Ms Juliana Santillán (Second Vice Chair) of the Foreign Affairs and Worship Committee of the Senate, and of the Chamber of Deputies, respectively – emphasised the country’s path towards opening its economy and integrating into global value chains. This was President Milei’s foreign economic priority, and concluding an agreement with EFTA would contribute to this endeavour.

After two days in Buenos Aires, the delegation moved on to Brasília, meeting with Mr Geraldo Alckmin, Vice President of Brazil and Minister of Development, Industry, Trade and Services. He stressed that the geopolitical situation had become more complex. It was therefore important to demonstrate the capacity to sign agreements, open markets and bring countries closer together. Ms Marina Silva, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, spoke about the impressive reduction in illegal logging in Brazil and the ambition to reach zero deforestation. The agreement with EFTA provided concrete answers to deepen collaboration on sustainability matters further.

To foster the parliamentary dimension, the delegation met with Mr Rodrigo Otavio Soares Pacheco, Speaker of the Senate, and Mr Nelsinho Trad, President of the Brazilian Group at Parlasul – the parliament of the Mercosur countries. These meetings offered a unique opportunity to strengthen parliamentary cooperation and to discuss the way forward regarding the respective ratification processes in the parliaments of the EFTA States and the Mercosur countries.

The working visit also provided the chance for EFTA parliamentarians to meet with chambers of commerce, think tanks, civil society representatives, science institutions (Fiocruz) and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), which manages the Amazon Fund. EFTA PC members were able to assess the political and economic realities of both countries, along with their expectations with regard to further trade and investment opportunities between EFTA and Mercosur.

The EFTA PC is composed of parliamentarians from the four Member States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Its role is to advise the EFTA countries on all issues relevant to EFTA such as relations with trade partners worldwide.

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