Negotiations have resumed for an Association Agreement between the EU and Mercosur, which means there is a need to reassess relations between the two regions and to put forward the positions of organised civil society regarding this agreement.
Signing the Association Agreement would create the world's second largest trade bloc, with an estimated GDP of some EUR 9 trillion and a total population of 700 million. The EESC believes that the agreement would bring immense opportunities and benefits of all kinds for both parties, at a time when enormous changes are taking place in terms of the roles of global players and when we are facing global challenges of a geo-strategic, environmental, and social nature, as well as those relating to energy and governance, and in view of the urgent need to implement in-depth reforms of the development model.
The agreement would also enable the EU to strengthen its trade position in the region, given that China and other Asian countries are increasing their presence on the Latin American market.
Both the EESC and its counterpart in Mercosur's civil society, the FCES (Mercosur Economic and Social Consultative Forum), have always backed negotiations for an Association Agreement, on the understanding that it should be a tool for facilitating regional integration and social cohesion in Mercosur – a partner which shares common values at global level – and for enhancing trade between the two sides.
The EESC believes that an agreement should be balanced, should benefit both parties and should not sacrifice any sector (such as agriculture or industry), region or country. The opinion therefore urges that all possible formulae and mechanisms be used to that end (countervailing clauses, transitional clauses, exceptions, promotion of investments, development etc). The EESC also calls upon the negotiating parties to consider the high political and economic cost of not reaching an agreement and the missed opportunity that this would represent.
The opinion stresses that the AA should be ambitious and should deal with all aspects of the EU's relations with Mercosur. Specifically, the agreement should have a social, labour and environmental dimension that pervades the entire Agreement in order to promote the sustainable development of both regions.
The EESC calls for Mercosur's Economic and Social Consultation Forum (FCES) and the EESC itself – as the bodies representing civil society in the two regions – to be involved in the negotiations, in the impact assessments of the AA and in the proposals arising therefrom.