I Plenary Conference, Rio de Janeiro
With the signing of the Rio Declaration on February 23, 1999 by the three Co-Chairmen Jürgen Strube, Roberto Teixeira da Costa and Carlos Bulgheroni, the first Conference of the Mercosur European Union Business Forum (MEBF) was concluded. More than 100 top-ranking businessmen from the EU and Mercosur had gathered for three days in Rio de Janeiro to discuss and adjust opinions on existing trade barriers and possible business facilitation measures between the two blocs.
The political perception of the business-driven initiative and its inaugural Conference was impressive. The presidents from three Mercosur countries,Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay participated in the opening session. President Menem, who phoned in sick, sent his foreign minister to replace him. Eight other ministers from Mercosur participated in the conference in the following days. The EU Commission was represented by Industry-Commissioner Martin Bangemann.
Political discussions and speaches focused on the building of a free trade area between the EU and Mercosur and the opening of the EU agricultural market.
President Cardoso and his two colleagues insisted on a liberalisation of this protectionist sector in the EU. Commissioner Bangemann supported their concerns and expressed his strong believe that the Commission would obtain the mandate from EU member states to start negotiations for a free trade zone until the EU/LA Summitt in June.
The business community resumes these concerns in the "political chapter" of the "Rio Declaration", regarding them as a basis for the realisation of most of their recommendations. The MEBF welcomes the intention of the German EU presidency "to use its best efforts to obtain a mandate for the European Commission as a first step for negotiating a free trade zone with Mercosur". MEBF also supports the rules and principles of the WTO and expresses the necessity of bilateral and regional agreements being in conformity with WTO rules.
Due to the numerous participation of top-level politicians, the Rio Conference has evoced a huge media echo in the member states of Mercosur, the EU, and other important international media.(CNN, BBC, etc.) The press covered the whole 3-day event with detailed reports about business and government meetings on their front pages and a full-length broadcast of the Opening Session on Brazilian National Television.
Centrepiece of the three-day business meeting were the recommendations of the Rio Declaration which businessmen had concluded in the meetings of the three Working Groups Market Access, Investment / Privatisation and Services, and which ask for quick consideration and implementation by the administrations of the two blocs.
In the Rio Declaration, the Working Group "Market Access" particularly pledges for facilitation in the fields of customs procedures and trade. Other priority issues are rules of origin, intellectual property rights and trade defense instruments. A closer co-operation in standards and certifications and the signing of Mutual Recognition Agreements is emphasised. The group has identified certain key sectors which should elaborate specific recommendations within the follow-up work to the Conference. (Automobile industries, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, tires, telecommunications, confectionary, agribusiness, forest products, pulp and paper, capital goods and ceramics.
The Working Group Investment/Privatisation has identified recommendations in the fields of investment conditions, infrastructure, participation in the privatisation process, company co-operation, technical and educational co-operation and free movement of personnel. The discussions on government procurement will be continued.
In the field of Services, the Working Group presented proposals on business facilitation in the field of Information Society and Electronic Commerce. MEBF has initially identified the following key sectors that constitute a priority for analysis: telecommunication, energy, financial services, transportation and tourism.
II Plenary Conference, Mainz
Nine months after the Rio Conference, the EU/Mercosur business community reconvened in Mainz on November 21-23, 1999 for the second Conference of the Mercosur/EU Business Forum (MEBF). More than 60 business leaders were joined by around 40 high ranking government officials from both regions. The purpose of the meeting was to analyse progress of the MEBF process and to discuss the further course of action in the Working Groups. The final document of the MEBF Conference, the "Mainz Statement", can be found on this Website under "Declarations".
The Mainz Conference was held on the eve of the negotiations on the EU/Mercosur/Chile Interregional Association Agreement. During the previous months, MEBF had made a strong contribution towards launching these negotiations. "MEBF is ready to take a pro-active role in the negotiations. We urge governments to extend their negotiating mandate. We have no time to lose. Our common goal of establishing a free trade area must be accomplished in due course", Mr. Jürgen Strube,European Co-Chairman of the MEBF emphasised at a meeting with leading government officials, including the Uruguayan Foreign Minister Didier Opertti (Mercosur Presidency), the Finish Foreign Trade Minister Kimmo Sasi, European Commissioner Pedro Solbes, Brazilian Deputy Minister of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade Milton Seligman and the Argentinan Under-Secretary of Foreign Trade Jorge Campbell.
MEBF reaffirmed the importance of a strong commitment from all partners involved in the negotiations to cover all sectors, including agribusiness. Businessmen launched a set of "Working Principles" in Mainz, which shall enable the forum to cover all aspects of the negotiations in a parallel process. It was agreed that only through the elaboration of sectoral recommendations within the MEBF, the business community could have a feasible impact on the technical working groups of the negotiations. The business leaders reiterated that MEBF should follow a comprehensive approach. The Argentinan Co-Chairman Carlos Bulgheroni stressed: "We should be forward looking and avoid to exclude any issue from our agenda which does not appear relevant at present, but might be of strategic importance in the future".
The three Working Groups of MEBF Market Access, Investment/Privatisation and Services decided in Mainz their future working agenda, the priorities for the bi-regional negotiations and a timetable for their future work.
In the Mainz Statement, which was signed by the three MEBF Chairmen, MEBF also sends a clear message to the WTO Seattle Ministerial. Businessmen are calling for a comprehensive and balanced trade round with an agenda including agriculture,services, market access, foreign investments and trade facilitation, which would provide a better basis for all WTO members to benefit, developed and developing countries alike.
Brazilian Co-Chairman Roberto Teixeira da Costa stressed that the Mainz Conference had shown the growing importance of the business forum, which had only started 18 months ago. "We are determined to move this process forward and give our input in order to shape the face of a future free trade area".
III Plenary Conference, Madrid
The III Plenary Conference of the Mercosur/European Union Business Forum (MEBF) was held on May 15-16 in Madrid, at the central offices of the Spanish Federation of Business Associations (CEOE). More than 200 high-ranking representatives of companies and business federations attended this meeting, chaired by Alfonso Cortina, President and CEO of Repsol YPF (Spain) and Carlos Bulgheroni, President of Bridas Corporation (Argentina).
The Conference was also attended by a high level representation of the European Council, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the governments of the Mercosur countries, among others: José María Aznar, President of the Government of Spain (EU Presidency); Rolf Linkohr, President of the Delegation of the European Parliament for the Latin American Countries and the Mercosur; the Vice President of the European Commission, Loyola de Palacio; the European Commissioners Pascal Lamy (Trade), Erkki Liikanen (Enterprise), Chris Patten (External Relations) and Pedro Solbes (Economy); Didier Opertti, Minister of External Relations, Uruguay; Martín Redrado, Ambassador, General Secretary of Trade, International Economy Relations and Consular Affairs, Argentina; Jorge Hugo Herrera Vegas, Ambassador, Undersecretary of American Economic Integration and Mercosur, Argentina; Clodoaldo Hugueney, Ambassador, Undersecretary General, Integration, Economy and External Trade Affairs, Brazil; Oscar Cabello Sarubbi, Director General, Multilateral Policy, Paraguay, and the President of the CEOE, José María Cuevas.
The result of the MEBF III Plenary Conference is the document entitled Madrid Declaration, approved by the Mercosur and EU businesspersons attending the meeting, that includes 71 specific recommendations to the authorities and negotiators to enhance the trade and investment relations between the two blocks. In the Declaration, the Forum has underlined its support to the creation of a free trade area between the EU and the Mercosur without the exclusion of any sector, but it regrets that progress achieved until the moment is not fully satisfactory. The MEBF encourages the authorities of both blocks to accelerate their talks.
In the Conference, the discussion focused on three concrete areas: Market Access; Investment, Privatisation and Financial Services; and Services and Business Development.
In the area of Market Access, the MEBF has formulated 34 recommendations aimed to facilitate two-way access to all products in the frame of the multilateral WTO negotiations. Particularly, the Forum appreciates the efforts of both parties to present concrete tariff offers, and states a set of proposals regarding the tariff structure of the two blocks.
It also recommends the simplification and liberalisation of customs procedures for import and export operations, and asks for the simplification and reduction of the non-tariff trade taxes and the harmonisation of the customs valuation norms.
The Forum stresses the importance of the implementation of the WTO agreement on tariff barriers, as well as the harmonisation of the sanitary and phytosanitary norms.
Finally, it asks negotiators to pay special attention to the rules of origin and requests that the business facilitation measures recommended in the MEBF Buenos Aires Conference (December 2001) be implemented.
Regarding Investments, Privatisation and Financial Services, the MEBF points out the importance of the European investments in the Mercosur and estimates that there are still many opportunities, particularly for SMEs. The Forum considers that democracy, social cohesion, tax stability and sustained economical development are necessary conditions for the development of investments and bilateral trade. Therefore, the MEBF presents 19 recommendations to foster a friendly atmosphere to investments and liberalisation in both regions.
Among others, mention should be made of the inclusion of a chapter about investments in the Interregional Association Agreement; the promotion of the negotiation of an Investment Multilateral Agreement in the frame of the Doha Round; the simplification of taxes and the development of bilateral agreements on double taxation; the need to complete the processes of liberalisation and privatisation, as well as the simplification of the investment regulations and the elimination of the restrictions affecting certain sectors; the impulse of private investment in infrastructure projects in Mercosur; the removal of obstacles for the concession of residence and working permits to foreign corporate managers; the promotion of co-operation among both SME blocks and the launching of technical assistance programs for the development and strengthening of the Mercosur SMEs; and the facilitation of the access to government procurement for companies of the two areas.
Finally, in the area of Services and Business Development, the MEBF has identified the main problems limiting the bilateral relations, and has suggested 18 recommendations aimed to eliminate said restrictions and to foster the bilateral corporate relations.
Other points to be pointed out are the request for inclusion of a chapter on Services in the Interregional Association Agreement, without the exclusion of any sector; the development of transparent, non discriminatory, and harmonised regulatory frames; the adoption of a higher degree of commitment with the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the frame of the WTO; the implementation of international rules to protect copyrights; and the promotion of technology transfer.
The MEBF believes that the recommendations included in its Madrid Declaration may serve as an orientation of the interests and priorities of the private sector for the negotiators of both blocks, and at the same time, they will stimulate the Mercosur and EU companies to intensify their trade and investment links.
At the end of the Conference, an announcement was made of the succession of the MEBF co-chairmen by Guy Dollé, CEO of Arcelor (Luxembourg) and Luiz Fernando Furlan, President of Sadia Group (Brazil).
IV Conferência Plenária
O Fórum Empresarial Mercosul e União Européia (MEBF) é uma iniciativa das comunidades de negócios que tem o objetivo de incrementar as relações comerciais entre os dois blocos. Por meio de conferências plenárias, o setor privado contribui com a busca de soluções para eliminar ou reduzir entraves nesse processo.
Neste ano, a IV Conferência Plenária aconteceu em Brasília (Brasil). Nos dias 28, 29 e 30 de outubro, o fórum abordou temas como realizações e perspectivas para negociações entre a União Européia e o Mercosul, acesso aos mercados e facilitadores de negócios, investimentos, serviços e cooperação nos projetos especiais, entre outros. Esta data foi particularmente importante pelo estágio em que se encontram as negociações e pela influência da rodada de Cancún que afetou fortemente o processo.
Neste momento, as negociações do Mercosul e União Européia, em Bruxelas, dão novas perspectivas às recomendações feitas na Declaração de Brasília, assinada pelo Conselho do MEBF e apoiada pelos empresários e entidades presentes ao evento, cerca de 350.
Por que a Conferência Plenária de Brasília foi importante?
As Conferências Plenárias do Fórum Empresarial Mercosul e União Européia (MEBF) visam assegurar a participação do setor privado no processo negociador das relações comerciais entre Mercosul e União Européia, de maneira que os empresários estejam envolvidos nas decisões tomadas.
Para as empresas que possuem ou pretendem estabelecer negócios que envolvam União Européia e Mercosul, os impactos dessa integração se refletem em suas estratégias e seus resultados, tais como a redução de tarifas, acesso a mercados, normas e legislação específica, entre outros.
Por isso, as recomendações da Declaração de Brasília são fundamentais para o desenvolvimento de acordos birregionais adequados ao mercado das duas regiões.
Nos grupos de trabalho de acesso a mercados e facilitação de negócios, investimentos e serviços e cooperação em projetos especiais, participaram empresários dos dois blocos com interesse estratégico nos itens propostos nos acordos bilaterais entre União Européia e Mercosul.
As palestras realizadas a partir das 10h00, do dia 29 de outubro, foram abertas a empresários, órgãos governamentais e ONG’s resultando em mais de 350 pessoas inscritas.
Por possuir forte influência nas diretrizes incluídas nos acordos birregionais oficiais, a IV Plenária contou com a participação de Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, Presidente do Brasil e José María Aznar, Primeiro-Ministro da Espanha, que reforçaram a importância do relacionamento Mercosul – União Européia.