Mercosur or Mercosul (Spanish: Mercado Común del Sur, Portuguese: Mercado Comum do Sul, English: Southern Common Market) is a trading zone among Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, founded in 1991 by the Treaty of Asuncion, which was later amended and updated by the 1995 Treaty of Ouro Preto. Its purpose is to promote free trade and movement of goods and peoples, skills and money, between these countries. Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela have associate member status.
Many South Americans see Mercosur as a useful bulwark against the encroachment of the United States in the region, either in the form of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) or in the form of bilateral treaties. But Mercosur was significantly weakened by the collapse of the Argentine economy in 2002, and indeed some critics believe the refusal of the Bush administration to bail out Argentina was based on its desire to undermine Mercosur, which would be a threat to what some say is a divide-and-conquer strategy for maintaining dominance over the economies of Latin America.
The name Mercosur is formed from the Spanish phrase Mercado Común del Sur which means "Southern Common Market". There are more than 220 million consumers in this region and the combined Gross Domestic Product of the member nations is more than one trillion dollars a year.
See also: trade bloc