Last 17 February, representatives from MERCOSUR and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) met at EFTA headquarters in Brussels, in order to agree on the basic parameters that will govern future trade negotiations between both blocs.
EFTA, created in 1960, is an intergovernmental organization for the promotion of free trade and economic integration for the benefit of its member States. The Association is currently composed of four countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The planned negotiations between both blocs will be broad and include not only trade in goods (agricultural, agro-processed, fishery and industrial) but also trade in services and the reciprocal opening of government procurement markets. In that regard, a series of trade disciplines will be negotiated in relation to rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical regulations, defence of competition, investments and intellectual property. The MERCOSUR-EFTA agreement will also establish its administrative institutional structures and its own dispute settlement method.
Although Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein already have their negotiation mandate, Switzerland is still awaiting approval, as the consultation process in the legislative chambers and cantons is ongoing.
The agreement with EFTA is another step forward by MERCOSUR in its drive to become an intelligent and successful insertion platform into the global economy for its four members (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), focusing on the promotion of exports with higher value added -especially knowledge-related ones- and on the creation of new trade and employment opportunities for the population of all four countries.
In March-April 2017, MERCOSUR and EFTA will exchange statistics and technical data to prepare the first round of formal negotiations that will take place in Buenos Aires next June, under Argentina’s Presidency Pro Tempore of MERCOSUR.