EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement

The trade agreement currently under negotiation between the EU and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) has political momentum and is advancing quickly. For the final treaty to enable a major and sustainable boost in trade via deep economic and political cooperation, the EU will have to give ground on agricultural imports and Mercosur will have to reciprocate on industrial goods, services and pharmaceutical patents.

If they do, the planned pillar on Regulatory Cooperation will have serious purpose. If Mercosur and the EU can discuss and compare their regulatory plans at the policy-design stage, it will help to avoid uselessly diverging laws down the line, divergences which in turn foster wasteful negotiation, disputes and litigation. If, like for CETA, the Treaty organises the participation of business, unions, consumer and environmental protection interests in the Regulatory Cooperation process, Mercosur business groups will need to position themselves to have a seat at the table of the official EU-Mercosur regulatory cooperation fora, and a lot more will need to be done to make it work. In particular, as Mercosur is not as politically integrated as the EU, its business interests do not have the European culture of working together under a single EU regulatory system. They will need to develop procedures for agreeing on what they want from Regulatory Cooperation with the EU before they come to the table, and for liaising between themselves, their governments and the European Commission thereafter.

It is not easy even for European interest groups to work with the European Commission at the policy development stage prior to the tabling of legislation, nor is it obvious that Mercosur governments will easily adopt a culture of civil society participation in the EU-Mercosur Regulatory Cooperation dialogue. The challenge will be to organise a dialogue with Mercosur business that is more than just pro forma Treaty compliance.

MacBrien Cuper Isnard has long experience of helping our clients engage with the Commission on policy planning and is well placed to guide Mercosur business interests and to coordinate support from European business and consumer allies.