MERCOSUR and Singapore – Free Trade Agreement Delayed due to COVID-19

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By Dezan Shira & Associates, Brazil Liaison Office

Singapore and the Southern Common Market of South America (MERCOSUR) have experienced a delay in their free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations after Argentina announced its decision to withdraw from ongoing negotiations on potential trade deals, saying it needs to focus on the growing economic crisis at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

MERCOSUR is an economic bloc currently composed of countries in South America (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), and has associated members in Chile, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana and Suriname. Bolivia is in the process of joining the bloc. MERCOSUR’s collective market is over 260 million people and it has a GDP of US$3.54 trillion.

The proposed FTA between MERCOSUR and Singapore will favor bilateral trade and investments and expand MERCOSUR presence in ASEAN, while at the same time will stimulate more negotiations and reduce obstacles for MERCOSUR and Singaporean companies to compete in each other’s respective markets.

Singapore has considerable experience with respect to FTA’s having a vast knowledge of business transactions and currently has more than twenty wide-ranging trade treaties in force. It stands out for its tax legislation that does not levy taxes on almost all assets (with exceptions). It does not levy profits taxes upon dividends for example realized externally from Singapore and enjoys a relatively low corporate income tax rate of 17 percent.

The Southeast Asian country became the first ASEAN member to start negotiating with MERCOSUR. Trade between the two reached US$3.5 billion last year and the upcoming FTA  should considerably boost this – but not until the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

The FTA is scheduled to cover issues related to market access, rules of origin, micro and small enterprises, phytosanitary barriers, safeguard mechanisms, trade in goods and services, investments, simplification in negotiations, intellectual property, e-commerce, and exchange between governments.

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