The president of the European Commission (EC), Jose Manuel Durao Barroso, Friday called for concluding negotiations and finalizing a free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the Southern Common Market ( Mercosur).
In an address at Brazil's University of Brasilia, where he was presented with an honorary doctorate, Durao said it was time that more than decade-long talks with Mercosur nations Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela concluded in a deal.
Such an agreement would represent an increase of 5 billion U.S. dollars in the gross domestic product (GDP) of Mercosur nations, and a nearly 40 percent increase in their exports to Europe.
The two sides were scheduled to meet at the beginning of this year to exchange proposals as part of the agreement, but the gathering was repeatedly postponed.
"The Mercosur and the EU have been 'engaged' for more than 15 years. Isn't it time to take the next step and make it official?", said Durao, using language usually reserved for two people who have put off getting married.
"Brazil has a leadership role here. We know that it wants to make progress, but we also know that it does not decide alone and that the pace of other Mercosur members are different," he acknowledged.
"It's important not to waste time however, because we could end up being last," added Durao, alluding to other trade agreements being negotiated by the EU.
According to the Mercosur bloc, it has been ready to meet for some time, but its European counterpart has put off presenting its proposals on various occasions.
The Portuguese-born Durao, who met privately earlier in the day with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff at the presidential residence, is set to step down from his EC post in August to make way for the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker, who was elected to replace him this week.
Durao is scheduled to visit Rio de Janeiro through Monday to meet with Brazilian political and business leaders.