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Opinion: 30 years of MERCOSUR milestones in South American trade bloc

The Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) was born with the signing of the Treaty of Asuncion in 1991 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. The bloc is a historic achievement in the region and one of the major milestones in Latin American economic integration.

    With a population of almost 300 million and an area of about 15 million square kilometers, MERCOSUR is known for its great natural resources and food production. The bloc exports 63% of the world's soy and is the largest global exporter of beef, poultry, corn, coffee and iron, as well as the eighth largest global automobile producer. Based on its GDP, which in 2019 reached $4.467 trillion (measured at purchasing power parity), the bloc is the world's fifth largest economy.

    MERCOSUR experienced a great expansion in its intra-bloc trade, specially industrial and high-value added products, like in the biofuel, chemical and petrochemical, plastics, pharmaceutical, steel and automotive sectors. Therefore, whereas MERCOSUR is a traditional and well-known exporter of primary products, many of the products traded among members of the bloc are industrialized ones, like cars, which stand out representing almost 50% of the total products traded between Argentina and Brazil.

    We are also working on the harmonization of technical regulations so as to protect production and consumers without unnecessarily preventing trade. Our citizens may also settle in other countries of the bloc and easily work freely, which is uncommon in the rest of the world.

    MERCOSUR has negotiated, through the ALADI, trade agreements with most of the countries in the Latin American region, which allowed for a free-trade zone that includes most of the Latin American countries. We have also signed trade agreements with the European Union and other countries. More than 200 Japanese companies are doing business in the MERCOSUR countries and benefiting from the market access advantages generated by its agreements network, especially in the automotive, mining, energy, foods and trade sectors.

    Cooperation within MERCOSUR covers many areas: culture, education, science and technology, the coordination of social and economic policies, helping us to create economies of scale and specialization, as well as participate in the global value chains and attract foreign direct investments. In addition, MERCOSUR plays a constructive role in the international arena, especially within the Group of 20, the World Trade Organization, the Food and Agricultural Organization and other international organizations.

    MERCOSUR is the most important foreign policy achievement of the last 30 years for our countries. Throughout this period, we have reached a great deal of common ground: a commitment to democracy, respect for human rights and the coordination of our economic policies.

    Given the challenges and uncertainties arising from the international arena, we are certain that the integration of our countries will continue to be the best way to boost our development, preserve our sovereignty, promote the well-being of our people and further integrate us into the world.

    (By Felipe Sola, Argentine Minister of Foreign Affairs)

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