The European Union (EU) and Mercosur, or the Southern Common Market, will exchange market access offers in May, a crucial step for the two sides to promote their trade ties, it was announced Friday.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom held a meeting on Friday with visiting Uruguayan Foreign Minister Rodolfo Nin Novoa, whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the Latin America's trading bloc Mercosur.
In the second week of May, the EU and Mercosur will exchange market access offers specifying the ways to increase mutual openness to each other's goods and services, including in public tenders, an EU statement said.
"I am glad we can now move forward with these longstanding negotiations," said Malmstrom. "I trust that the upcoming exchange of offers will allow us to successfully resume these talks towards an ambitious and comprehensive deal."
Intense negotiations between the EU and Mercosur took place between 1999 and 2004. After an unsuccessful exchange of market offers in 2004, the negotiations were halted for six years.
Since the resumption of negotiations in 2010, nine negotiation rounds have taken place, preparing the work for a new exchange of offers soon, the EU statement said.
The EU's exports to the region have steadily increased over the last few years, making Mercosur the EU's sixth most important export market.
Their bilateral trade in goods amounted to over 88 billion euros in 2015, according to the EU, which is Mercosur's first trading partner, a major provider of commercial services as well as the biggest foreign investor in the region.
The European companies pay over 4 billion euros in tariff duties annually when exporting to the Mercosur countries, the EU said.
Mercosur is a trading bloc in South America, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela and Uruguay with Bolivia in the accession process.