The President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, is determined to finalize the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of 2021. The agreement was reached in 2019, but ratification has been delayed due to concerns raised by member states, including Ireland. These concerns include deforestation in Brazil, the potential impact of imports on the EU beef market, and the imposition of stricter standards on EU farmers compared to primary producers in the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
The deal would allow an additional 99,000 tonnes of beef from the South American trade association to enter the EU tariff-free. During a joint press conference with Brazilian President Lula da Silva, von der Leyen, who is currently on a tour of Latin America, stated that “the agreement will create the right conditions for investment to flow”. She added, “We have the ambition, the two of us, to get it done as soon as possible, the latest by the end of the year. I think there are huge advantages on both sides.”
The EU Commission president believes that the trade deal will “help integrate and strengthen our value chains and boost the competitiveness of our industries globally”. She added, “This trade agreement is more than a trade agreement, I see it as a long-term engagement, as a platform for dialogue.” Earlier this year, the EU sent a letter to the Mercosur countries seeking more commitments on sustainability and climate change. “We are very much looking forward to your answer,” von der Leyen said.
However, Brazilian President Lula da Silva expressed concern about the “additional instrument” presented by the EU in March. The instrument would enhance Brazil’s obligations under the trade deal. “The premise between partners should be mutual confidence and not mistrust or sanctions,” he said. President von der Leyen said that the EU and Brazil “share the same vision of fighting climate change and on labor rights”. She praised Brazil’s ambition to end deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 2030 and said that the EU would contribute €20 million to the Amazon fund. President von der Leyen also said that the EU could “learn a lot” from Brazil in terms of renewable energy. The country is producing 87% of its electricity from renewable sources.
The EU-Mercosur FTA has been a topic of debate since its inception. Several EU member states, including Ireland, have voiced their concerns about the potential impact of the deal on their economies and the environment. Critics argue that the agreement would lead to increased deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, exacerbate the climate crisis, and negatively impact EU farmers.
The Irish government has been particularly vocal about its opposition to the deal. In 2019, the Irish parliament passed a motion calling on the government to reject the agreement. The motion cited concerns about the impact of increased beef imports on Irish farmers and the environment. The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has also been critical of the deal, stating that it would result in “a flood of cheap South American beef” entering the EU market.
The EU-Mercosur FTA has also faced opposition from environmental groups and civil society organizations. In June 2021, a group of over 450 NGOs sent a letter to the EU Commission calling for the agreement to be scrapped. The letter argued that the deal would “undermine efforts to tackle the climate crisis and halt deforestation in the Amazon”.
The EU-Mercosur FTA has been described as the largest trade deal in history, covering a population of over 780 million people. The agreement aims to reduce tariffs on goods and services and increase trade between the two regions. The EU has stated that the deal would benefit EU exporters and consumers by providing access to a large and growing market. However, opponents argue that the deal would come at a significant cost to the environment and EU farmers.
In conclusion, the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement remains a contentious issue. While the EU Commission president is determined to finalize the deal by the end of the year, concerns about the impact of the agreement on the environment and EU farmers persist. It remains to be seen whether the agreement will be ratified and what the long-term consequences of the deal will be for both regions.