After the LXII Summit of Mercosur was held in the city of Puerto Iguazú, Argentina, in early July 2023, the presidents of Mercosur, Alberto Ángel Fernández, for the Argentine Republic; Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, for the Federative Republic of Brazil and Mario Abdo Benítez, for the Republic of Paraguay, prepared a statement to detail the agreements reached during the multilateral meetings.
“The Presidents of Mercosur renewed the group’s commitment to strengthening democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. They also highlighted the importance of the bloc’s economic, commercial, social, and cultural agenda for the benefit of its citizens and citizens. In turn, they agreed on the need to open a space for political reflection on the modernization of the bloc. This includes strengthening the internal agenda for greater integration of their economies, as well as the strategy of international insertion on a consensual basis. The presidents of Mercosur also expressed solidarity to face the challenges of a world scenario in transformation. These changes are affected by significant alterations in the map of supply chains and production and employment,” the joint statement begins.
The agreements reached by the presidents of Mercosur in 2023
Review of the Mercosur Regime of Origin
The presidents of Mercosur welcomed the approval of the review and update of the Mercosur Regime of Origin (ROM), an essential instrument for the integration of the productive sectors of the States Parties, which is modernized to simplify the rules and adapt them to the reality of international trade.
Customs matters and trade facilitation
The participants highlighted the importance of the “Technical Study on the State and Situation of the Level of Integration of the Mercosur Integrated Control Areas.” They expressed willingness to resolve the difficulties identified to strengthen regional infrastructure and facilitate trade.
The presidents of Mercosur highlighted the preparation of the “Mercosur Customs Information Exchange Procedures Manual” and the updating of the “Mercosur Customs Information Exchange Form,” tools that will contribute to the improvement of actions for the prevention of illicit Customs actions in the States Parties.
Defense of Competition
The heads of state welcomed the resumption of the work of Technical Committee No. 5, “Defense of Competition.” They highlighted the consensus reached in the Work Program that will promote regional cooperation and the culture of competition among the bloc countries.
The presidents of Mercosur highlighted the approval of regional regulations that determine the characteristics and procedures for providing information on consumer complaints in each State Party of Mercosur, whose analysis will constitute an input for adopting adequate consumer protection policies in the region.
The participants celebrated the progress in the work for the adoption of the “Cooperation Mechanism between National Consumer Protection Authorities of the States Parties to Mercosur for the Supervision of Compliance with Consumer Protection Regulations,” an instrument that will facilitate the operation of administrative cooperation for more agile and effective supervision of compliance with the rules.
They highlighted the joint activity of Technical Committee No. 7, “Consumer Defense,” with Working Subgroup No. 6, “Environment,” which made it possible to achieve substantive progress in the process of preparing the “Guide to Good Practices on Sustainable Consumption.”
Foreign Trade Statistics
The heads of state highlighted the conversations aimed at improving the functioning of the Mercosur Foreign Trade Statistics System (SECEM). They reaffirmed the need to continue strengthening its technological infrastructure to improve the availability of Mercosur foreign trade statistical information, both for its character as a tool for analyzing commercial flows and its usefulness for commercial operators and interested third parties.
The participants in the event took note of the progress, during this semester, in the work for the prompt conclusion of the VIII Round of Negotiations of Specific Commitments in Services and highlighted the importance of advancing the liberalization of trade in services to deepen the integration of the economies of the region and more significant insertion in global trade in services.
They highlighted the continuity of the work in the Sugar Sector Ad Hoc Group to define the objectives and terms of reference of a study on the current context of the sugar sector and related industries in Mercosur. This was done to suggest alternatives to promote its better use and facilitate access to extra-regional markets.
The presidents of Mercosur highlighted the presentation of a first proposal to develop guidelines for reviewing the regulatory framework of Working Subgroup No. 3, “Technical Regulations and Conformity Assessment Procedures,” which aims to perfect the process of regulatory harmonization between the State’s Parties.
They went on to highlight the importance of continuing the work of the Ad Hoc Group on Regulatory Issues (GAHTR). They recognized the relevance of transparent and consistent regulatory practices to obtain regulatory results that seek to avoid unnecessary trade barriers and facilitate trade flows between countries in the region and outside the Mercosur economic bloc.
Mercosur Business Forum
The three heads of state highlighted the holding of the 10th Edition of the Mercosur Business Forum. This space promotes the participation of the private sector in the integration process, intending to improve coordination with the public sector.
In this context, the presidents of Mercosur took note of the activities that took place at the event:
- “Women Entrepreneurs in Mercosur – Promoting business with regional expansion,” held on April 27, where Mercosur businesswomen presented specific proposals to promote the participation of women in the business world and the bloc’s international trade activities.
- The Automotive Chapter: “Transition towards sustainable mobility,” held on June 7, made recommendations and proposals related to institutional aspects, supplier development, human resources, international insertion, internal market, and public-private relations.
- The Health Sector Chapter: “Health manufacturing industry: towards regional self-sufficiency in the production of medical equipment,” was held on June 22, in which the conclusions and recommendations were announced to enhance the sector as an axis of trading bloc development.
- The Audiovisual Chapter: “Towards greater regional integration of advertising services,” held on June 27 in virtual format, in which advertising agencies, producers, production companies, and artistic creatives from the region developed recommendations for greater integration of the sector within Mercosur.
- The progress of the segment: “Biotechnological value chains: challenges for Mercosur.” Participants worked to identify the variables necessary to stimulate a regulatory environment favorable to regulatory convergence at the regional level in a strategic and innovative sector in the region.
Fund for the structural convergence of Mercosur (FOCEM)
The presidents of Mercosur reaffirmed that the Fund for the Structural Convergence of Mercosur (FOCEM) is a fundamental tool for overcoming existing asymmetries between the countries and regions of the bloc and strengthening the integration process.
In that sense, the heads of state positively recorded the receipt of Brazil’s contributions committed to the FOCEM in the current semester, which will enable the consideration of additional projects.
They also highlighted the approval of the project “Priority Works for Infrastructure Recovery of the Urquiza Line,” which will improve the transportation of railway cargo in Argentine Mesopotamia and its connection with the remaining States Parties.
Likewise, they took note of the approval of the project “Strengthening the regional institutions of Mercosur to face critical and emergency contexts (pandemic and post-pandemic) with public policies with a human rights perspective,” which will strengthen the bloc’s actions in matters of human rights; and the project “Modernization of the computer infrastructure of the Mercosur Secretariat and the Mercosur Web Portal,” which will improve the computer services available to the public.
Trade and sustainable development
The three heads of Mercosur states recognized the work being carried out by the Ad Hoc Group on Trade and Sustainable Development to fulfill its mandate.
In particular, it relates to valuing the contribution of trade to achieving sustainable development in its three dimensions, giving visibility to the policies carried out by the States Parties to promote sustainable development in their productive systems from a perspective of inclusion and social and environmental conservation. They identified measures and regulations adopted by third parties that could affect regional trade and sustainable development.
The presidents of Mercosur reaffirmed their decision to continue advancing in the implementation of policies aligned with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement, with the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Kunming-Montreal Global Framework, and with the Convention United Nations to Combat Desertification.
Likewise, they highlighted the need for fair, transparent, and agile financing mechanisms. They underlined the urgent need to capitalize on existing environmental and climate funds, with the expectation that the promises of resource mobilization to achieve the commitments of the Rio Conventions are honored, in line with the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities. They also recognized, in turn, the need to have innovative financial mechanisms, such as the exchange of debt for environmental and climate action, payment for ecosystem services, the use of special drawing rights, and financial instruments such as bonds linked to sustainability.
Finally, they expressed their commitment to active participation and involvement to achieve a successful and inclusive legally binding instrument on plastic pollution.
They reiterated their commitment to move forward with determination in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda. They agreed that sustainability challenges must be addressed through concerted actions within the framework of multilateralism. This will be based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective national capacities. In that sense, the presidents of Mercosur agreed that there is no single approach and that recipes and solutions must be adapted to local needs without leaving anyone behind. They also shared concern about the effects of new unilateral regulations by some countries and trading blocs that, far from solving environmental problems, could aggravate the global situation regarding food safety and cause adverse effects on international trade.
The heads of state welcomed the progress in the negotiation of a “Mercosur Cybersecurity Cooperation Agreement,” which will serve to improve the coordination, response, and collaboration of the national authorities of the States Parties to the malicious use of cyberspace to maintain open, secure, stable, accessible, peaceful and interoperable access to the cyber environment.
They highlighted the progress in Working Subgroup No. 14, “Physical Infrastructure,” with a view to the coordination of priority infrastructure projects
for physical integration and the promotion of works that promote productive and logistical integration in Mercosur. In this sense, the three presidents highlighted the proposals for the creation of a Commission on Bioceanic Corridors to have a space for exchange on the different bioceanic corridors existing in Mercosur and the Associated States, as well as a Mercosur Physical Infrastructure Project Bank, to identify priority projects and analyze possible sources for their financing.
The presidents highlighted the work of Working Subgroup No. 9 “Energy” and the holding of the Meeting of Energy Ministers of Mercosur, in which they agreed on the importance of moving towards greater electrical interconnection and gas integration that allows the full use of the complementary resources of the countries of the region, the need for the energy transition process to be fair, inclusive and adapted to the reality of the Mercosur countries, and the importance of access to international financing. Likewise, they highlighted the advances in energy efficiency, sustainable mobility, incorporation of alternative energies, development of hydrogen, and the completion of new infrastructure works for energy production, transportation, and distribution. This intends to strengthen integration for the benefit of the people of the entire region.
They agreed on the importance of holding the Virtual Energy Integration Seminar: Natural Gas – Transition Fuel, in which the role of natural gas in the energy transition process of Mercosur, Bolivia, and Chile was analyzed. The States Parties of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay agreed that natural gas is a strategic fuel in the transition toward a cleaner energy matrix and a factor in integrating South American economies.
The presidents of Mercosur highlighted the importance of the resumption of the meetings of Working Subgroup No. 13, “Electronic Commerce.” In particular, they noted the shared interest in strengthening coordination as a contribution to the future development of guidelines for negotiations on electronic commerce with third countries or blocs and the project, under consideration of the States Parties, to promote digital trade.
They agreed on the importance of the ratification of the “Mercosur Electronic Commerce Agreement,” which establishes a legal framework that enshrines norms and principles related to electronic commerce in the Mercosur trading bloc.
They recognized that the creation and strengthening of national and regional capacities for the development and production of inputs, medicines, and other essential health technologies is a critical element to improve market access and transparency and adequately respond to the needs of regional health, especially in times of pandemics, and that also contributes to health security and economic and social development.
They reaffirmed the relevance and strategic importance of continuing with Mercosur’s participation and active support in all the processes and initiatives coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) on prevention, preparation, and response to pandemics.
They celebrated the update of the “Mercosur Strategy on Climate Change and Health,” recognizing that “Climate change affects the health and well-being of people. It directly causes increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme meteorological events such as heat waves, droughts, and heavy rainfall, all with significant health impacts. On the other hand, it contributes to modifying distribution patterns and seasonality of infectious diseases transmitted by water or by vectors and zoonotic diseases. Likewise, climate change will put “the sustainability of health systems at risk if the environmental determinants of health are not seriously addressed, given that the fraction allocated to prevention in the global budget allocated to healthcare is very low (WHO, 2019).”
The presidents of Mercosur were pleased to have strengthened the “Health in Healthy Borders” strategy, initiating activities in surveillance, vaccination, services and HR, and pandemic preparedness and response. This proposal seeks to contribute to ensuring that the populations of border towns linked to Mercosur are safer and more integrated in health. To achieve this, it is considered essential to generate active exchanges of institutional capacities and competencies of the Mercosur countries themselves and take advantage of Mercosur institutions to guarantee the sustainability of the actions.
Seal of good design
The presidents of Mercosur agreed to advance actions that enhance design capabilities in Mercosur through a program that establishes and promotes the MERCOSUR GOOD DESIGN SEAL to strengthen innovation and insertion in international markets of small and medium-sized bloc companies.
The Importance of Mercosur
Mercosur, the Southern Common Market, holds significant importance for the economy of South America. Established in 1991, this regional trade bloc comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and, more recently, Venezuela. The primary objective of Mercosur is to foster economic integration among its member countries, promoting the free movement of goods, services, and factors of production. This integration has led to increased trade within the region, creating a larger market for businesses and encouraging economic growth. By eliminating or reducing tariffs and trade barriers, Mercosur enhances the competitiveness of member nations on the global stage.
Furthermore, Mercosur is a platform for coordinated economic policies and joint initiatives, contributing to regional stability and development. The collective bargaining power of Mercosur enables its member countries to negotiate more favorable trade agreements with external partners, strengthening their position in the global economy.
The significance of Mercosur extends beyond trade to include social and political cooperation. The bloc promotes collaboration on issues such as infrastructure development, environmental protection, and education, fostering a sense of unity among South American nations. In a globalized world, where economic interdependence is crucial, Mercosur plays a pivotal role in shaping the economic landscape of South America and enhancing the region’s overall prosperity.