bilaterals.org logo
bilaterals.org logo

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


EU-Mercosur trade agreement would harm user rights and the commons
The EU-Mercosur FTA is expansive, addressing trade in industrial and agricultural goods as well as intellectual property provisions such as copyrights and patents.
Brazil tells the EU ‘it won’t move’ on Mercosur talks without ethanol and beef
Brazil insists that it will not table a new offer as part of the ongoing EU-Mercosur talks until a proposal on beef and ethanol is on the table.
Mercosur nations prioritise end-of-year EU trade deal
At its biannual summit last week, South American trade bloc Mercosur confirmed that it intends to finalise an agreement with the EU by the end of the year. But experts warn that this timeframe might be too ambitious for a full-blown deal. EURACTIV Spain reports.
Commission publishes reports following negotiation rounds with Mexico and Mercosur
The Commission has just published reports summarising the progress made during the latest negotiating rounds for the EU-Mexico and EU-Mercosur trade agreements.
Mercosur – EU joint communique, XXVIII negotiating round
A negotiating round took place in Brussels on 3-7 July between the European Union and Mercosur.
US Brazilian beef ban casts doubt on Mercusor trade agreement
A move by the US Department of Agriculture to ban imports of fresh Brazilian beef has added weight to calls to remove agriculture from a free trade agreement between the EU and countries in the Mercosur trading-bloc.
Brazilian meat industry corruption raises Mercosur concerns
A two-year investigation found evidence some meat-processing plants in Brazil had been selling rotten beef and poultry on to the export market by bribing health inspectors and politicians to get the necessary paperwork.
Joint EU-Mercosur communique following the XXVIIth round of negotiations
Significant progress was achieved regarding the negotiating text in the three parts of the future Association Agreement between both regions: Trade Part, Political Dialogue and Bi-Regional Cooperation.
What to watch out for in the EU-Mercosur FTA negotiations: consequences for access to medicines
Some of the main TRIPS-plus measures historically pushed for by countries such as the United States or the EU are being again proposed at the EU-Mercosur FTA.
EU, Mercosur countries work to speed up trade talks
A fresh round of talks between parties is taking place this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina.