The front-runner to become Argentina’s new president in October elections has placed a question mark over the EU-Mercosur trade pact.
In primary elections last Sunday, the opposition led by Alberto Fernández scored a surprise victory, with 47% of the votes, compared to 32% for Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s president.
President Macri was the major supporter in South America of the trade agreement in principle between the EU and the Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay).
His imminent election loss will give hope to those in Europe — including Irish farmers — who fear that a Mersosur trade deal, if fully agreed, would damage their businesses.
They particularly fear loss of markets for Irish beef due to a proposed new EU import quota for 99,000 tonnes of South American beef, incurring an import duty of only 7.5%.
Industry sources have said this would inevitably reduce EU beef prices for farmers, which are already so low in Ireland that Beef Plan farmers protested for 12 days outside beef factories.
Mr Fernandez has already voiced his opposition to the Mercosur trade deal with the EU, and he has also clashed with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who said a Fernández government would be a disaster that would flood Brazil with Argentine refugees.
On the trade deal with the EU, Mr Fernandez said, “That agreement doesn’t exist, never existed.
“They signed a sort of protocol letter in which they set out a series of topics to deal with.”
“We have to see what this agreement consists of,” he added.
He said there are some early indications that some aspects of the deal would be “disadvantageous for Argentina. If those things are fixed, welcome for Argentina.”