Resorting to bilateralism: the EU, MERCOSUR, and the Strategic Partnership with Brazil

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Series Details Volume 40, Number 1, Pages 51-66
Publication Date January 2018
ISSN 0703-6337
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In 2007, the European Union (EU) launched a Strategic Partnership (SP) with Brazil despite its long-lasting interregional relationship with the Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR). By singling out Brazil, the EU swung from the EU-MERCOSUR interregional negotiations on an Association Agreement (1999–2004) to bilateralism.

In view of the EU’s increasing use of bilateralism, the article analyses why the EU shifted to this SP. Relying on elite interviews, it compares the interregional negotiations (1999–2004) with the bilateral talks with Brazil (since 2007). The EU switched venues from interregional to bilateral because it feared losing Brazil to its American and Chinese competitors. In Europe’s endeavour to prevent this loss, when interregional negotiations seemed fruitless because of MERCOSUR’s increasing fragmentation, the EU privileged Brazil as a strategic partner.

Analysing this overlooked SP, the article looks at the – little studied – extra-regional factors that have rendered the EU’s commitment to regional integration vulnerable to bilateralism.

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