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Helping European SMEs enter South American market

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After successful rollouts in China and Southeast Asia, the European Commission will launch a helpdesk in South America’s Mercosur region. By providing free information and a variety of services, including legal assistance to help protect intellectual property rights, the Commission will help Europe’s SMEs benefit from Mercosur’s continued growth.

As part of its ongoing efforts to help European businesses tap into emerging economies, the European Commission will launch a helpdesk to facilitate market access to Mercosur, an economic and political region including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Mercosur, along with neighbouring Chile, represents a huge growth opportunity for European businesses, and especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). At the same time, however, the region poses unique challenges to companies accustomed to doing business in Europe. Different customs, different regulations and so on mean that opportunities are accessible only after navigating various obstacles.

With that in mind, the Mercosur IPR Helpdesk will provide services to help European companies face challenges they might encounter in Mercosur. As with other EC-sponsored helpdesks in Asia, the Mercosur IPR Helpdesk will offer free, confidential advice and guidance on intellectual property rights (IPR). In particular, the helpdesk will disseminate training materials and liaise with local personnel, including law enforcement and legal experts, who can assist with IPR protection. These services will help ensure that discrepancies in regulations and expectations do not hinder market access to EU enterprises.

The Mercosur helpdesk is part of the European Union’s ongoing investment in the region. The EU designated €50 million in assistance to Mercosur through the 2007-2013 Regional Programme, helping to establish the institutional and regulatory instruments that – now in place – will help EU businesses flourish. But the partnership goes beyond free trade: Strengthening institutional capacity to support democracy and promoting sustainable development have also been focal points of the EU’s involvement in Mercosur.

The EU is already Mercosur’s top trading partner, accounting to 20 % of Mercosur’s trade. Mercosur, meanwhile, represents 3 % of the EU’s total trade, with EU exports to the region swelling from €28 billion in 2007 to €50 billion in 2012. Top EU exports to Mercosur include machinery and transport equipment (45 % of total exports) and chemicals (22 %). The EU is also a major exporter of commercial services – Mercosur accounted for more than €15.9 billion in EU commercial services in 2011 – as well as the top provider of foreign direct investment in the region.

The European Commission has been proactive in helping EU enterprises tap into foreign markets, which represent some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. In addition to the Mercosur IPR Helpdesk, the EC also supports the China IPR SME Helpdesk and the ASEAN Helpdesk (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Among the numerous services designed to aid European SMEs – including case studies, training, events and more – these two helpdesks jointly operate the “Your IP Insider” blog, which offers news, advice and information about the Asian market.


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