EU-Mercosur Association Agreement (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: EU-Mercosur Association Agreement (own-initiative opinion)
  • The EESC believes that an agreement of this nature will only be possible if it is balanced, beneficial to both parties in the medium  and long-term and does not sacrifice any particular sector (such as farming or industry), region or country. Under no circumstances can the AA be based on a poor deal.
  • Taking into account all aspects of cooperation and political dialogue (two of the three essential pillars of the AA), the EESC calls on the negotiating parties to show the utmost political will, which is essential to concluding the agreement and to make the greatest possible effort to overcome the differences currently affecting trade-related matters, by recognising the sensitive aspects in some sectors included in the negotiation and to this end using the recognition of disparities, monitoring of the points agreed, flanking and countervailing measures, the establishment of exceptions, development plans to support the worst affected sectors, the promotion of investments, innovation policies and countervailing, transitional and future-developments clauses. Furthermore, all EU policies should be included in the flanking measures, as well as in others.
  • For the EESC, the profound digital transformation taking place on both sides of the Atlantic could provide greater impetus to harness the potential of an AA signed between the EU and Mercosur. One of the sectors that could be positively affected is the global value chains between EU and Mercosur, which are currently very weak, and could be strengthened. The AA would also be relevant to all matters relating to building infrastructure, particularly interconnections and the development of sustainable energy and most notably, the telecommunications sector.
  • 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 an agreement that is not well-balanced for both parties and the missed opportunity that this would represent. Clearly, it is not only the Mercosur countries that should be taken into account when calculating the cost of not reaching an agreement, the whole of Latin America and in particular the countries of the Pacific Alliance, which have become a main focus for Europe's attention in the Latin American integration process, should also be included.
  • The EESC is of the view that the AA should be ambitious and deal with all aspects of EU-Mercosur relations. The recent free trade agreements signed with Canada and Japan should be taken into consideration. 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. This dimension should ensure that economic relations are in line with the social and environmental objectives of the agreement, without undermining the rules and guarantees governing sustainable development. The importance of food security should also be emphasised.
  • The EESC believes that the AA should be used as an active tool to promote social dialogue and compliance with fundamental ILO conventions, particularly those related to decent work and included in the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of 1998. In this regard, the EESC calls for an enhanced socio-occupational chapter to address problems in the world of work and to promote dialogue between employers and employees, which could provide a boost for greater social cohesion.
  • The Committee also calls for the creation of a civil society Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) made up of the EESC and Mercosur's Economic and Social Consultation Forum (FCES). It shall:
  • have advisory status,
  • a balanced membership that ensures equal representation of the three sectors represented at both institutions,
  • have a voice on all areas covered by the AA (including, therefore, its chapter on trade and sustainable development),
  • have a recognised right to direct dialogue with other joint bodies of the AA recognised and
  • be consulted by these bodies and able to act on its own initiative, draw up its own rules of procedure and receive adequate funding from the respective political authorities in order to enable it to carry out its duties.
  • The EESC considers it unnecessary and inefficient to include civil society representation twice – once in the general AA and again in the chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development. The Committee therefore considers the AA as a whole which applies to all countries of both parties. The EESC urges the negotiators to learn from the experience of other association agreements, which have set up domestic advisory groups (DAGs) for each party without including any possibility for recognised dialogue under the agreements. The clear limitations of this model show that it makes no sense for each Mercosur country to have a DAG involving civil society indirectly in the AA. This is particularly true since both parties have independent, balanced, representative advisory bodies that are capable of exercising their mandate under the AA.