Mercosur (in Spanish) or Mercosul (in Portuguese), the free trade union comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, was 20 years old in 2011 and at present the founding countries remain the only full members. Venezuela, which applied to join in 2006, still awaits approval by the Paraguayan parliament. Bolivia, Chile and the other Andean Community countries (Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) have associate status.

The original plan to create a ‘European Union’ of the Southern Cone has stumbled over the protectionist instincts of its members and the massive disparity in the size of the economies. As currencies have fluctuated and economies have stagnated or boomed within the group, members have been tempted to impose temporary bans or punitive tariffs on partners whom they think are affecting their industrial or agricultural bases.

Populist governments have also reacted to political issues and have placed non-tariff barriers against imports from partners they think have injured them. However, for all these hindrances, Mercosur is still a very important grouping for the UK exporter, especially in view of the growth of Brazil (see the Brazil page for more of this). Argentina, in spite of continuing political differences with the UK, is essentially anglophile and we have an excellent residual image from when British engineers built the railways, ports and utilities a century or more ago.

Argentina has a sophisticated population of 40 million and is very European in its look and feel, especially Buenos Aires where a third of the inhabitants live. SDL has sold consumer goods, industrialised products, heavy engineering and even services to the government –there is no part of corporate UK which cannot investigate seriously this exciting market. Paraguay, the least advanced economy of the group, has a little more than 6 million people and has traditionally grown through the ‘re-export’ of consumer goods to its neighbouring giants. Growth has however been high and UK consumer goods have always been very popular. The very considerable agricultural sector should also be looked at by UK suppliers.

Uruguay is a most interesting country. While by far the smallest in population (3.2 million) of Mercosur, it has the freest economy and is an excellent base from which to penetrate its neighbours’ markets. It has a policy of attracting investment by tax concessions; non-residents, both private and corporate, can fully own local companies; foreigners wishing to work in Uruguay are treated as Uruguayans; and the banks, including many international branches, maintain considerable secrecy and allow accounts in multiple currencies. Mercosur has many attractions for the UK exporter and we are able, through a network of long-established contacts in business and government, to help you develop and grow in the area. Give it serious thought.


Brazil is the powerhouse of South America and covers half the continent - it is in fact slightly larger than the continental USA. With 190 million people, the world's sixth largest economy has been attracting attention from all the most active exporters in Europe and North America. Read more


Mexico's determination to reduce its dependence on trade with the USA was intensified by the repercussions of the 2008 US downturn on its economy. The need to diversify has become urgent. Read more


Mercosur is the trading bloc established to bring Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay into a common market. Its population of 250m accounts for nearly 75% of the South American economy; its area is more than 4 times that of the European Union. Read more