France will not sign up to the European Union’s trade deal with the Mercosur group of South American countries at any cost and it remains to be seen whether Paris will eventually back it, French ministers have stated.
Prominent French Ministers said they will continue to fight against the accord agreed by the EU and the South American countries, which concluded two decades of talks between the blocs. France, the EU’s largest farming power, has regularly expressed concern over the risk of a surge in South American agricultural exports to Europe.
French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed provisions in the draft accord protecting European geographical origin certification for food products and limiting Mercosur exports of sugar and beef.
However, growing uproar among the country’s agricultural community and lawmakers since the deal was announced has put the government under increasing pressure before the agreement goes to parliament for ratification, according to reports by French-based reporters for news agency Reuters.
“We won’t have an accord at any price. The story isn’t finished,” Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume has told French lawmakers. “We are going to wait see what exactly is in this text but, I would like to tell you that the whole government and I will be vigilant. I will not be the minister who sacrifices French agriculture on the altar of an international agreement.”
Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian echoed that view, saying that while the draft trade deal provided opportunities for European exporters, it remained to be seen whether it met France’s demands.
“The red lines we have drawn for the agreement are firm,” he told parliament, adding that it “remained to be seen” whether Paris would support it.
French farmers’ groups are strongly opposed to what they see as lower standards in Mercosur countries, and Guillaume said a ratified deal would notably have to show proper traceability and good livestock practices in the beef sector.
France’s main farmers’ union, the FNSEA, has said that had requested a meeting with Macron and was also planning protests over the EU-Mercosur accord.
Meanwhile, all the main Irish farmer representative bodies have criticised the deal, stating that it threatens to decimate the beef sector, an industry which is already under severe pressure in relation to Brexit impacts.
IFA president, Joe Healy, said: “This deal represents a backroom deal with big business and kowtows to the likes of Mercedes and BMW in their drive to get cars into South America. It is a disgraceful and feeble sell out of a large part of our most valuable beef market to Latin American ranchers and factory farm units.
“Irish and European farmers adhere to the highest standards on traceability, animal welfare, food safety and the environment. Farmers in Brazil do not. Yet our Government and the EU Commission waved the white flag and disregarded what consumers expect from their farmers,” Mr Healy added.