RPT-EU, Mercosur approach a deal on sidelines of WTO meeting

(Adds comments from Brazil Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, recasts first paragraph)

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Trade talks between the European Union and South America's Mercosur bloc are approaching agreement on a deal on the sidelines of the World Trade Organization ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, negotiators from both sides said on Tuesday.

The deal could come early in the new year, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told reporters.

"We have made good advancement but there's still stock taking today," Malmstrom said. "We see the end of this."

Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes later told reporters that Mercosur and the European Union have exchanged notes on how far each side is willing to cede ground to reach a free trade deal.

"They asked us how far we could move in their direction and we asked the same. We are waiting for their reaction to our proposal to see if we can conclude the toughest part of the negotiations which is market access," he said.

Nunes said Mercosur is committed to removing tariffs from 90 percent of its trade with the EU.

Resistance by some EU member states, such as Ireland and France, to agricultural imports, has delayed negotiation of the trade pact that seeks to liberalize trade and investment, services and access to public procurement.

Mercosur members Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay have pushed for an improvement on the EU offer of tariff-free imports for 70,000 tonnes a year of beef and 600,000 tonnes of ethanol a year.

(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski, Luc Cohen and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Bernadette Baum)