Gender is not prominent in EU foreign policy towards Mercosur

Presidents from the Mercosur Member States f.l.t.r.  Evo Morales (Bolivia), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), José Mujica (Uruguay), Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela)
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Presidents from the Mercosur Member States f.l.t.r. Evo Morales (Bolivia), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), José Mujica (Uruguay), Dilma Rousseff (Brazil), Nicolás Maduro (Venezuela)
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Given the EU’s commitment to gender, and its self-promotion as a normative power, one would expect that the EU exports gender norms to Mercosur in their bi-regional relations. This chapter, however, argues that the EU has not been the main driver of the process of institutionalization of gender in Mercosur. Instead, the mobilization of regional women’s movements, and changes in government orientation in Mercosur member states since 2003 are more relevant factors. The EU only plays a marginal role in the promotion of gender issues in its relations with Mercosur. Gender is not prominent in EU foreign policy and development policy towards Mercosur. The process of trade liberalization, one of the central objectives of their interregional relations, is even assessed as having a potential negative impact on gender, and the EU-Mercosur trade policy has not been gender mainstreamed. (...)

In this chapter I explored to what extent and how gender has been addressed in the relations between EU and Mercosur. First, I analysed the process of institutionalization of gender in Mercosur. While gender was not incorporated in Mercosur’s agenda before the late 1990s, it received increasing attention after the turn of the millennium and has now gained a firm place on the Mercosur agenda. Since 2000, Mercosur has adopted a gender mainstreaming approach, that recently is more firmly institutionalized and monitored by the upgrade of the regional gender unit (RMAAM). This success can be attributed to the effective pressure of a regional pentangle that emerged in the early 1990s grouping together representatives of the women’s policy machineries of Mercosur member-states, members of women’s organizations, female unionists, parliamentarians, scholars and women working in international agencies. Regional mobilization was stimulated in the context of the UN Conferences (Beijing 1995 and its reviews in 2000, 2005 and 2010) and inter-American system. More recently, the accession to power of socially oriented governments in Mercosur member states created a new window of opportunities to get gender on the Mercosur agenda. The election of women to the presidencies in Brazil (Dilma Roussef in 2009) and Argentina (Cristina Kirchner in2007) reinforced the enabling role of the domestic executives.

The chapter further assessed the role of the EU in the process of institutionalization of gender, and found that the EU does not appear to act as a strong norm promoter towards Mercosur in its development and trade policies. While EU development policy is gender mainstreamed in theory, in practice gender is not taken into consideration in the bi-regional cooperation policies, and no concrete commitments have been formulated. When it comes to EU trade policy, gender mainstreaming appears to be totally absent. Existing preliminary research results tend to be sceptical about the effect of free trade on gender relations in Mercosur countries. So despite the EU’s discourse on gender mainstreaming, the EU does not act as a normative power in its relations with Mercosur.

 To conclude, this chapter argues that while gender mainstreaming has been adopted as a regional norm both in the EU and in Mercosur, it does not play out in the interregional negotiations and agreements, where a gender perspective is still sorely lacking. Neither the EU, nor Mercosur has positioned itself as an active exporter of the GM norm, and other (economic) interests clearly prevail over gender. The interregional level has not been, so far, a central level of diffusion and travelling of gender norms.


Andrea Ribeiro Hoffmann: Gender Mainstreaming in Mercosur and Mercosur trade-relations, in: VAN DER VLEUTEN, ANNA, VAN EERDEWIJK, ANOUKA, & ROGGEBAND, CONNY. (2014). Gender Equality Norms in Regional Governance Transnational Dynamics in Europe, South America and Southern Africa. Palgrave Macmillan.


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