20 Years in the Making: Mercosur-European Union Reach Trade Deal
Days after the announcement of the Mercosur-European Union trade deal, the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center partnered with the Global Business and Economics Program and the Future Europe Initiative for a conference call to discuss the details and implications of the momentous agreement.
A byproduct of two decades of discussions and forty rounds of negotiations, the deal is the largest for the European Union (EU) in terms of population and the first for Mercosur since the four-nation bloc, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, was established in 1991. The agreement covers a population of nearly eight hundred million people and will result in over four billion euros in tariff savings for the European Union.
Jason Marczak, director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, started off the discussion, stating that “the word historic is sometimes overused, but not in the case of the recently announced” Mercosur-EU agreement. Marczak emphasized that this trade deal reaffirms the EU’s commitment to multilateralism and represents Mercosur’s eagerness to engage in the interdependent economy of the twenty-first century.
Marcos Troyjo, deputy minister of Foreign Trade and International Affairs for the Brazilian Ministry of Economy participated in the final rounds of discussion in Brussels. He shared that a willingness to find common ground culminated in this positive agreement that will foster Mercosur to modernize its ideological views. Troyjo noted that the agreement highlights President Jair Bolsonaro’s pursuit of trade with all corners of the globe, and Argentine President Mauricio Macri’s eagerness to change regional development patterns. For him, “all boats are lifted by this beautiful tide of trade,” endorsing the trade agreement as a “win-win” for all parties involved.
Tomas Baert, head of the Trade and Agriculture Section at the EU Delegation to the United States, and his colleague, Owen Jones, minister counselor at the same division, underscored the agreement’s importance for the EU’s commitment to open, rules-based trade along with its desire to export EU values and standards in addition to goods.
The conversation also considered how this trade agreement produces new possibilities for advancement within Mercosur. Daniel Godinho, director of Corporate Strategies at WEG Brazil and a nonresident senior fellow at the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, referring to the possible benefits of the trade deal to Brazil, stated that “this opportunity will be proportional to the speed and deepness of domestic reforms in Brazil.” Regionally, he hopes the agreement will foster greater integration, beyond Mercosur boundaries. On a bilateral level, Troyjo identified this deal as an opportunity for Brazil to harness momentum to better US-Brazil relations.
Shunko Rojas, former undersecretary of International Trade for President Macri and a partner at Quipu, believes the Mercosur-EU agreement will undoubtedly play a role in the run up to Argentina’s October presidential elections. However, he emphasized that the efforts of negotiators from across the political spectrum made this trade agreement an impressive accomplishment. Given the cross-administration work on negotiations, this deal will likely not be a point of contention in the elections.
Regarding the possible impacts of the deal and the ratification process on both sides of the Atlantic, Troyjo characterized the agreement as a major win for Brazilian industries, such as beef, poultry, and sugar. He also highlighted that the deal will both add value to Brazilian firms and change the nature of foreign direct investment in the country. He expects a smooth approval process in the Brazilian Congress, as legislators seek to capitalize on the agreement’s potential to benefit different economic sectors.
For Argentina, Rojas noted that political “voices of rejection” directed at the Mercosur-EU trade deal in the coming weeks will be the result of “ignorance” as most Argentinians have not witnessed a trade agreement in their lifetimes. He commented that pursuit of a similar trade agreement by earlier, left-wing administrations ensures that Argentina will ratify the agreement regardless of its election results.
On the EU front, Jones reaffirmed that EU food standards would not drop due to the agreement. He added that the EU does not recognize figures used by European agricultural sectors that predict a great negative impact of the deal. With regards to the implementation process, Baert confirmed the agreement must be signed and ratified by all EU member states and that, once submitted to the EU for ratification, it will be provisionally applied throughout the bloc. This process could take between one and two years.