An EU-Mercosur Association Agreement is only possible if it is beneficial for both parties

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The Agreement should not sacrifice any sector, region or country, insists the European Economic and Social Committee

The European Union is the world's largest economy, and Mercosur the sixth largest. There are significant benefits to be gained for both parties in signing the Association Agreement (AA), says the European Economic and Social Committee in its opinion Towards an EU-Mercosur Association Agreement, adopted at its plenary session on 24 May. The EU would gain access to a market of almost 300 million inhabitants. Mercosur could diversify its economies and add value to its exports as well as gaining access to a market of 500 million people. Given the territory, population and current trade of more than EUR 84 billion per year, concluding the Association Agreement between the EU and Mercosur would strengthen the role of both blocs on the international stage and create a large economic integration area, bringing benefits for both parties and generating positive spillover effects for the rest of Latin America as well. However, under no circumstances can the AA be based on a poor deal, warns the EESC.

"The EESC calls upon the negotiating parties, and the EU in particular, to consider the high political and economic cost of not reaching an agreement or of an agreement that is not well-balanced for both parties," said Josep Puxeu Rocamora, rapporteur for the EESC's opinion. The Association Agreement would be a comprehensive strategic agreement aiming to provide long-term benefits for all economic and social actors of both parties in terms of development, security, migration, and environmental challenges.

The EESC is of the view that the Association Agreement should be ambitious and deal with all aspects of EU-Mercosur relations. In this regard, it is important to tackle the real barriers that companies face, by harmonising the rules and their impact on non-trade barriers.

"The AA should have a fully comprehensive social, labour and environmental dimension," insisted Mário Soares, co-rapporteur of the EESC's opinion. "This dimension should ensure that economic relations are in line with the social and environmental objectives and the ILO conventions which govern sustainable development." The EESC's opinion underlines that increased social cohesion should be the overarching objective of the Association Agreement's social dimension.

The EESC calls for the creation of a civil society Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) made up of the EESC and Mercosur's Economic and Social Consultative Forum (FCES). This committee would have an advisory status and a voice on all areas covered by the Association Agreement.