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EU-Mercosur

Late 1995, the European Union initiated negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement with Mercosur (common market between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) as a reaction to the US’ push for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). A political agreement was reached in June 2019 but the deal is yet to be signed.

The EU-Mercosur FTA — which could be termed an inter-regional agreement, or more accurately a bilateral agreement between two common markets — was slated to be completed in October 2004. But the two sides failed to agree on each other’s final offers. Among other things, Mercosur was not satisfied with the EU’s agricultural market access provisions while the EU complained of the lack of Mercosur proposals to open their telecommunications sector and to upgrade protection of European geographical indications. More generally, commentators blamed the failure of the talks on mutual lack of political will.

Discussions resumed in 2005 and the EU planned to reach an agreement by 2006; however, the resumption of negotiations has been put off indefinitely due to the resistance of South American countries to opening up certain markets and to the European rejection of demands to cut agricultural subsidies.

In 2010, negotiations began again, although with many ups and downs. With political changes in Latin America, the negotiations sped up, as the Mercosur countries gave up some of their “red lines” in the negotiations, allowing the EU to lower its beef and ethanol quotas. Eventually talks took place without substantial results.

Negotiations were relaunched in 2016 and they seemed to be on the verge of closing in 2017 and 2018. Talk about a “trade war”, especially between US and China, hurried parties to conclude the talks. Following the leak of draft texts (February 2018), civil society organizations from both sides of the Atlantic were critical of the deal’s impact on jobs, small and medium enterprises, access to public services (such as medicines), public-interest regulations and on the environment.

On 28 June 2019, the EU and Mercosur inked a political agreement, days after more than 340 social movements from both sides demanded the negotiations be halted on the grounds of deteriorating human rights and environmental conditions in Brazil, under new far right president Jair Bolsonaro.

Even though the final text has not been finalized yet, it is known that the agreement will open the EU market to 99,000 tons of beef and 180,000 tons of poultry produced in Latin America, which has attracted the ire of Irish and French farmers. 355 European and 220 Mercosur geographical indications of food, wine and spirit products will be protected. The deal has been criticized for benefitting agribusiness.

The latest released version of the intellectual property chapter requires parties to join either UPOV78 or UPOV91 Conventions, a set of plant variety protection patent-like rules that promote the privatization of seeds and prevent farmers from saving seeds. It doesn’t extend medicines patents beyond TRIPs (Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights) standards, unlike other modern trade deals such as the new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).

Some groups in Latin America blasted the agreement, saying that liberalizing the public procurement market will hinder domestic efforts to implement regional development policies and trade rules that include stronger environmental and social standards.

Supporters of the agreement claim it would force Brazil to replant 12 hectares of trees in the Amazon rainforest. But in August 2019, as wildfires were devastating the area, France, Ireland and Luxembourg threatened to block the agreement, unless Brazil honoured its environmental commitments.

The texts that have been released so far by:
• Uruguay (July 2019): https://www.bilaterals.org/?eu-mercosur-fta-texts-jul-2019
• the EU (July 2019): https://www.bilaterals.org/?eu-mercosur-fta-texts-eu-jul-2019
• Argentina (September 2019): https://www.bilaterals.org/?eu-mercosur-fta-texts-argentina

The leaked EU negotiating mandate (in French): https://www.bilaterals.org/?ue-mercosur-directives-de

Luciana Ghiotto (Attac Argentina) contributed to this text

last update: September 2019
Photo: Stop TTIP Italia


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The reason for the delay of the exchange of offers lies on the EU request for the Mercosur bloc to increase the total trade volume to be included in the final agreement.
South American presidents ‘confident’ of EU trade deal
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her Argentinian counterpart, Mauricio Macri, have expressed confidence that the EU is committed to brokering a trade agreement with Mercosur.
Spanish FM calls for speeding up EU-Mercosur trade talks
The European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc need to accelerate negotiations on a trade accord, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Thursday (16 July).
Spanish FM calls for speeding up EU-Mercosur trade talks
The European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc need to accelerate negotiations on a trade accord, even if it means going into distinct individual velocities with the Mercosur members, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said on Thursday.
Vazquez and Rousseff meeting will address Mercosur/EU trade negotiations
Uruguay and Brazil presidents, scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting next 21 May in Brasilia will be addressing Mercosur issues, and advancing in the proposal that will allow the group’s members to sign bilateral agreements with third parties not belonging to the region, thus avoiding the ’consensus’ clause clamp.
Uruguay/Brazil meeting to attempt an advance in Mercosur/EU trade talks
Uruguay and Brazil foreign ministers Rodolfo Nin Novoa and Mauro Vieira will be meeting this week in Brasilia in yet another attempt to push forward the stalled negotiations for a trade agreement between Mercosur and the European Union
Angela Merkel wants hurdles removed to EU-Mercosur free trade pact
German Chancellor Angela Merkel assured Brazil on Sunday that she will do her utmost to bring to a successful end the 15-year-old negotiation of a free trade deal between the European Union and South America’s Mercosur trade bloc.
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At the end of May Mercosur will be ready to exchange tariff-reduction proposals with the European Union, announced Brazilian Industry minister Mauro Borges who also anticipated the trade block would be holding a preparatory meeting next week in Caracas, Venezuela.
Mercosur proposal to present the EU expected to be ready by end of April
Argentine cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich confirmed on Tuesday ’significant advances’ in the elaboration of Mercosur’s joint proposal to exchange with the European Union for discussions on a much delayed wide ranging cooperation and trade agreement.
Experts deeply split on prospects for quick EU-Mercosur free trade deal
The European Union and the Mercosur bloc have been negotiating a Free Trade Agreement for about 15 years now and after a several-year impasse talks seemed to gather new impetus in 2010 but the opinions of pundits talking to the Herald are deeply divided about the prospects of a quick accord.