BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The main points of market access in a trade deal between the South American Mercosur bloc and the European Union need to be concluded by December, Brazil's chief negotiator said on Thursday.
The EU and Mercosur have committed to a series of negotiations until the end of the year in what both parties say is a last-ditch effort at sealing a deal that has suffered a series of setbacks since talks first began in 1999.
"You cannot have an announcement of an agreement if you do not have the big numbers on market access. I cannot say I have finished and not know what the market access for beef and ethanol will be like," said Ronaldo Costa Filho, Brazil's chief negotiator in the talks.
The EU and Japan on Thursday reached a "political agreement" on a free trade deal, and officials insisted the key snags have been overcome for the deal to go into effect early in 2019.
A deal with the EU would be Mercosur's first large trade deal, though the bloc scheduled talks with other countries.
The EU has eyes on access to public contracts, with the market in Brazil alone worth nearly 150 billion euros ($170 billion), though in return Mercosur will want access to EU agricultural markets such as beef and sugar and derivatives such as ethanol.
"Ethanol is essential. I cannot go back home and say 'tough luck'," Costa-Filho told a press briefing in Brussels.
With Britain leaving the European Union and not benefiting from the deal, Costa-Filho added that Mercosur's door was "wide open" for Britain to seek a separate deal with the South-American bloc.
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(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek; Editing by Hugh Lawson)