Ratification of EU's Mercosur trade deal runs into more problems

Schedule that envisaged trade agreement coming into force in 2021 is derailed
Ratification of EU's Mercosur trade deal runs into more problems

German Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner: “With regard to Mercosur, we agriculture ministers are very, very skeptical.”

EU plans to push ahead with ratification of the Mercosur trade deal have been derailed.

October was the target for the trade deal text agreed by the European Commission and Mercosur to be sent for approval by the EU Council, the European Parliament, and by EU national parliaments.

That schedule envisaged entry into force of the trade agreement in 2021.

But sources on both sides of the Atlantic have acknowledged delays.

“Environmental and procedural issues remain to be resolved,” said Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou last week, after speaking with German Chancellor Angela Merkel via telephone.

The draft agreement between Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and the EU was signed last year after two decades of negotiations.

But President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil’s opening up the Amazon rain forest for exploitation has turned France and the Netherlands against the agreement.

The Dutch parliament rejected the deal in June.

Parliaments in Austria, and the Belgian region of Wallonia, have also opposed the deal in its current form.

The French agricultural sector and political representatives have rejected the agreement on numerous occasions.

Ireland has indicated reservations with the agreement, and now Germany has also expressed reservations, with a spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel saying in mid-August she had “serious doubts” about the future of the agreement in the face of the ecological threat in the Amazon area.

Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said Berlin “stands by the spirit and intentions of this major free-trade agreement,” but cautioned “We also look with great concern at the Amazon region, at the continuing deforestation there, at the slash-and-burn clearances there. In this context, serious questions arise as to whether implementation of the agreement in the intended spirit would be guaranteed at present. We’re skeptical about this.”

Young climate activists claimed Chancellor Merkel told them in a meeting that Germany wouldn’t ratify the deal as it stands today.

The EU-Mercosur deal has undergone a legal revision, and cannot be changed without reopening the whole package and risking long delays. But Germany could try to negotiate an additional declaration in which Mercosur countries agree stricter commitments on fighting deforestation.

When she recently hosted an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers, German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner said: “I do not see the Mercosur agreement being ratified yet, I have very clear reasons why I am very, very skeptical here.”

“With regard to Mercosur, we agriculture ministers are very, very skeptical.”

EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has opened an inquiry after five civil society organisations complained that the EU Commission did not produce an updated sustainability impact assessment before an agreement was reached in the trade negotiations in June, 2019.

The enquiry findings could be crucial in determining the approval of the Mercosur deal by the 27 EU countries.

Public opposition is also strong, with climate action movements having started a worldwide series of protests.

Many EU farmers are opposed to the trade deal, with ICMSA President Pat McCormack recently saying Mercosur was fatally flawed from Day One by the idea that the regulations and rules that the EU applied to its own farmers would not be applied to farmers and countries from whom it intended importing vast quantities of beef.

“The hypocrisy of that position was always going to overtake it in the end.”

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