The negotiation of a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between MERCOSUR and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA, the bloc comprised of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) concluded on Friday 23 August 2019, in Buenos Aires. Negotiations between both blocs began in 2017 and ended after 10 rounds.
This agreement is the logical follow-up to the important Partnership Agreement reached last June by MERCOSUR and the European Union (EU). Thanks to both agreements, MERCOSUR now has preferential access to almost all of Europe.
The countries which are part of the EFTA free trade zone represent a market of approximately 14 million people, and three of them (Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) are among the five countries with the highest purchasing power in the world. Their joint GDP amounts to over 1.2 billion dollars, and they have a key role in international trade: EFTA is the world's 5th largest market for services and the 9th largest one for trade in goods. In addition, trade between MERCOSUR and EFTA countries amounts to almost 7 billion dollars per year.
The agreement covers tariff and regulatory issues, as well as other matters such as services, investments, government procurement, trade facilitation and border cooperation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phitosanitary measures, sustainable development, competition, trade defence and intellectual property.
In relation to access to goods markets, more than 97% of MERCOSUR's export supply to EFTA countries will enjoy preferential treatment. Some of the products that will benefit from better access conditions are beef, poultry, wine, corn, honey and vegetable oils, among others. EFTA will eliminate tariffs for almost all manufactured products, thus notably improving their insertion into global value chains. One of the major aspects of the agreement is that Switzerland and Norway have agreed to fix bilateral quotas with MERCOSUR for the first time. In addition, EFTA countries granted tariff-free access for most agriculture quotas agreed at the WTO.
This agreement with EFTA, as well as the one with the EU, has been reached within the context of other ongoing negotiations which seek to open new markets for Argentine goods and services. In today's context, of growing trade tensions, an agreement such as this one will ensure stability in rules of access to a major export market, thus enhancing the competitiveness of MERCOSUR's exports to Europe.
The negotiation was concluded two years after it was launched. This agreement, in addition to the one reached with the EU, shows what MERCOSUR can achieve when its Member States work together towards shared goals.
Buenos Aires, 23 August 2019