Southern Common Market

MERCOSUR+Candidate countries (orthographic projection)

Bolivia (blue) is a candidate member. Venezuela (red) was suspended in 2016

Despite its quaint title, the Ragamuffin War of 1835 in southern Brazil, was one of the bloodiest ever fought on South American soil – and it all kicked off because of an economic disagreement; a familiar theme that still bedevils the nations of this volatile region. Even the Italian revolutionary, Giuseppe Garibaldi joined the fight, siding with the rebel Gauchos (cattle breeders) of the Rio Grande, angry at Spanish-inspired tariffs which were destroying their trade in salted beef. The eight-year long war claimed 3,000 lives. Treaties and trading blocs have blossomed and wilted many times since the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese settlers, one of the most recent being the Southern Common Market (Mercosur). The group, founded in 1991, has stated aims of promoting free trade and movement of goods, people and currency between members. Currently its full members are: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Venezuela, another full member, was suspended for "human rights violations" in 2016. Some argue that the suspension is economically short-sighted, and motivated by politics rather than economics. And there is some international criticism of the bloc for failing to make progress towards full integration, remaining basically a customs union. Associate membership of the group is held by Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname. Both Mexico and New Zealand hold observer status in Mercosur. With a combined population of 284 million, the bloc is one of the biggest economic entities on the planet. It has also signed free trade agreements with the EU, Israel, Egypt and Japan in recent years, although the EU and Japan deals have not yet entered into force as they are awaiting ratification. Despite many disagreements on future strategies, there is some optimism that a larger Latin-American free trade area can eventually be achieved. Discussions are currently taking place between Mercosur and its counterpart in the north, the Andean Community, with the hope of creating a single continental trading entity. Before becoming the UK’s prime minister in 2019, Boris Johnson toured much of South America as Foreign Secretary, returning to talk in conquistador-style of the "realms of gold" waiting for the UK in the region in the post-Brexit era.

What trade deals are there with other countries and economic unions?

MERCOSUR - Egypt free trade agreement (from 08/08/2022)

MERCOSUR - Israel free trade agreement (from 08/08/2022)

MERCOSUR - Lebanon free trade agreement (from 08/08/2022)

MERCOSUR - State of Palestine free trade agreement (from 08/08/2022)

MERCOSUR - CAN free trade area (from 31/12/2003)

MERCOSUR - India partial scope agreement (from 01/06/2009)

MERCOSUR - SACU partial scope agreement (from 01/04/2016)

MERCOSUR - Mexico partial scope agreement (from 28/12/2016)

MERCOSUR - Chile partial scope agreement (from 10/03/2017)

Member Countries

Population (2018)
GDP Growth (2021, %)
Date Joined