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


EU-Mercosur deal will have devastating impact on climate, NGOs warn
While the agreement still has to be approved by the European Parliament and Council, farmers and environmental NGOs remain disappointed.
Mercosur leaders look to close EU deal despite Macron’s resistance
Mercosur ministers reported progress on the final text of a trade agreement with the European Union on the eve of a summit meeting overshadowed by French President’s latest comments against the deal.
Time to rethink – Stop the EU-Mercosur agreement!
265 civil society organisations call on the Federal Governments and the EU Commission and EU-Parliament to reject this agreement!
Planned EU trade deal with Mercosur threatens climate, environmental protection and human rights
The agreement could have serious ecological and human rights repercussions, new study warns.
EU failed to consider environmental and social impacts of South American trade deal: complaint
The European Commission has ignored its legal obligation to ensure the trade agreement with the ‘Mercosur’ group of South American countries will not lead to social, economic, environmental degradation and human rights violations.
Dutch rejection of Mercosur now threatens wider EU trade deals
A free trade agreement between the EU and four South American countries, known as the Mercosur trade bloc, has been voted down by the Dutch parliament.
The EU-Mercosur trade agreement: What is it, and what could it mean for forests and human rights?
This briefing is meant to provide a discussion for NGOs in Brazil who want to understand the implications of this deal for people and forests and take action.
The true cost of the EU-Mercosur trade deal
The EU-Mercosur trade deal comes at a tremendous expense for people and the planet. Dire consequences are looming both on regional and global levels.
The EU must review the premises of its free-trade agreement with Mercosur
Environmental safeguards within the agreement, which were already insufficient even before COVID-19, have now made the document outdated.
Wallonia votes against EU trade pact with Mercosur countries
The Walloon parliament has voted unanimously in favour of a motion critical of the trade pact agreed between the European Union and the Mercosur countries.