EU agriculture chief slams ‘misinformation’ on Mercosur trade deal

According to EU farmers' association Copa-Cogeca, the EU-Mercosur deal was Europe’s way of telling US President Donald Trump that “we are going our way” with other trading partners. [EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET]

There’s a lot of misinformation and misplaced facts which have distorted the debate about the recently concluded Mercosur trade deal, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

Hogan said EU negotiators had ensured that “we’ll have no product arrive in the EU from Mercosur countries without complying with existing EU food safety standards.”

Hogan said the deal protects the bloc’s “climate and environmental ambition” and guarantees Brazil’s pledge under the Paris climate agreement to reforest the Amazon by 12 million hectares.

After two decades of talks, last month the EU announced a preliminary trade agreement with Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), one of the biggest such pacts ever negotiated.

EU, Mercorsur reach trade deal after 20 years of talks

The European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur sealed a blockbuster trade deal Friday, ending 20 years of talks over one of the world’s largest regional commercial accords, negotiators said.

But the accord has raised alarm in key European countries that the continent will be flooded with beef and other agricultural imports, subjecting domestic farmers to unfair competition and consumers to unsafe food.

The Commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the EU’s 28 member states, must still persuade certain European countries on the merits of the deal.

Major farming countries such as France, Ireland and Poland are in particular dubious of the deal’s benefits with beef producers on the front lines in fighting the agreement.

The deal still faces a long battle before implementation, including ratification in national parliaments throughout the bloc.

The EU is braced for a long protest season by angry farmers seeking to put pressure on their governments. Farmers marched last week on Ireland’s parliament, piling muddy boots outside its front gates.

A ‘devastating’ deal

In a recent interview with EURACTIV.com, Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of the EU farmers and cooperatives’ association Copa-Cogeca, said the deal was “devastating” for EU farmers.

“First of all, this is a political agreement. It still needs some fine-tuning but it’s fair to say that the impact of the Mercosur agreement would be devastating on the European farming family model,” Pesonen said.

According to Pesonen, the EU-Mercosur deal was Europe’s way of telling US President Donald Trump that “we are going our way” with other trading partners.

“As it happens, agriculture pays for it. So once again, agriculture pays for the international bad relations.”

The agricultural boss said Mercosur countries have been offered market access to a large number of sectors, without Europe getting substantial reciprocity in return.

“The net balance of this agreement is hugely negative. It’s several billion euros in the negative, in the red. We also have to take into account that we the next MFF is also negative in terms of further cuts for agriculture,” Pesonen said.

The sectors due to be affected are beef, poultry, pig meat, sugar, bioethanol, oranges and rice.

According to Carlos Malamud, an expert on Latin America-EU relations at Elcano think tank, the process to ratify the EU-Mercosur trade pact will be “complex” due to the discontent of the EU agricultural sector and the domestic politics of countries like France, Argentina and Brazil.

“It could take two or three years for the commercial part of the agreement to be approved and up to five years in the case of political dialogue and cooperation,” he told EURACTIV’s partner EFE in an interview.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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