(Portuguese name Mercosul)
A regional trade organization in South America, whose full title is the Southern Cone or South American Common Market. Founded in March 1991, with the aim of creating a common market in the area, Mercosur's member states were Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Following protracted negotiations on tariffs, the final presidential accord to create the customs union was signed on 17 December 1994 and Mercosur was inaugurated on 1 January 1995. Chile joined as an associate member in 1996. Mercosur and the European Union signed a cooperation agreement in 1995 and pledged to open negotiations on the eventual creation of a Mercosur–EU free trade zone. In 2004 Mercosur concluded a cooperation agreement with the Andean Community that aimed to merge the two organizations into a South American Community of Nations. As a result, most members of the Andean Community – Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru – became associate members of Mercosur; Venezuela, however, became a full member in 2005.