Mercosur was founded in 1991 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay with the signature of the Treaty of Asuncion. Venezuela is a full member since July 2012, Bolivia is in the process of becoming a full member since December 2012; while Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are associated states. Its Secretariat is based in Montevideo and it has a six-month rotating Presidency.
Profound asymmetries in size and economic characteristis among its members might translate into differences in capacity. The European Union has favoured the strengthening of Mercosur and supported its initiatives, notably through the Interinstitutional Agreement to provide technical and institutional support for its newly created structures.
In 1995, the EU and Mercosur signed an Interregional Framework Cooperation Agreement, which entered into force in 1999. A joint declaration annexed to the Agreement provides the basis for the political dialogue between the parties, which takes place regularly at Heads of State, Ministerial and Senior Official levels.
In 2000, the parties opened negotiations for an Association Agreement including three chapters: political dialogue, cooperation and trade. Negotiations were suspended in 2004 over fundamental differences in the trade chapter. Political relations continued, notably with the signature, during the EU-MERCOSUR Summit of Lima in 2008, of an agreement to expand relations to three new areas, science and technology, infrastructure and renewable energy .
After a six-year suspension, negotiations were re-launched in May 2010 at the EU-LAC Summit of Madrid and are ongoing. The objective is to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement, covering not only trade in industrial and agricultural goods but also services, improvement of rules on government procurement, intellectual property, customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade.
EU is Mercosur first trading partner accounting for 19.8% of Mercosur's total trade with the World and worth €109.895 billion in 2013.
The EU provides assistance to Mercosur through its 2007-2013 Regional Programme adopted in August 2007 in the framework of the Regional Strategy for Mercosur. The Regional programme provides €50 million to support projects in three priority areas: