South America Calling

Brazil, Argentina Discuss Joint Ag Trade Agenda

By Alastair Stewart , South America Correspondent

Where agriculture is concerned, Brazil and Argentina are often lumped together.

When it comes to multilateral farm trade talks, they have lumped themselves together.

Under the terms of the Mercosur trade accord, the two farm giants are obliged to negotiate together.

However, in recent years, the lack of a common agenda to open markets for their massive agricultural exports has meant they haven't moved forward with bilateral deals, most notably with the European Union, or presented market-opening proposals during World Trade Organization talks.

So while other countries join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), for example, Brazil and Argentina are left to broker individual agreements on specifics.

The lack of a common Mercosur agenda to open farm markets has been a source of great frustration in the farm communities of both countries.

But the outlook has changed with the election of new Argentine President Mauricio Macri. Both he and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff are committed to trying to open new markets for their farm sectors.

To that end, Brazilian and Argentine farm officials met in Brasilia this week to discuss a joint agenda.

Argentina is proposing a joint push to further agreements with major food importers, such as the EU, China and Russia.

In addition, the two countries will look to resume cooperation on animal health issues in order to strengthen their voice at international organizations.

Brazilian Agriculture Policy Secretary Andre Nassar also proposed greater cooperation in the areas of infrastructure and logistics.

With the two countries already competitive in key areas such as grains, sugar and meats, the prospect of trade deals could be a threat to the competition. Brazil has been very frustrated with the trade-on, trade-off attitude of the Russians to meat imports in recent years. A more coordinated approach between Brazil and Argentina could smooth that ride and an EU deal would be a boon. I am running ahead of myself but, for the first time in a while, that is where both the Brazilians and the Argentines want to go.

Alastair Stewart can be reached at alastair.stewart@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @astewartbrazil

(ES)

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