EU-Mercosur trade agreement: Senate unanimously condemns "agricultural steamroller" - Public Senate

EU-Mercosur trade agreement: Senate unanimously condemns “agricultural steamroller” – Public Senate

On January 16 this year, the Senate added its stone to the construction of an agreement that has been under discussion for more than 20 years: the trade agreement between the European Union and the Mercosur economic alliance (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay). This free trade agreement, concluded in June 2019 and intended to open trade between the two continents without tariffs, was never ratified and faced opposition from many countries, including France. Today, it is once again the subject of criticism in connection with the strong mobilization of farmers who are organizing throughout France and Europe.

Senators unanimously adopted a resolution to “revoke a certain number of red lines”, while negotiations resumed with a meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Brazilian President Lula in December. Senators Les Républicains and Union centrist believe in their resolution that “democratic, economic, environmental and social conditions are not met” for the conclusion of this agreement.

The need for “mirror measures” in the face of an “economic giant”

The key point of the resolution passed in the Senate: confirmation of the need to add “mirror measures” to this free trade agreement to prevent any distortion of competition at the expense of European operators. “The theory of international trade teaches us that free trade enables overall economic gains, but is always at the expense of redistribution between countries, between societies, between more or less productive sectors. In this game, our European agriculture and especially our French agriculture often loses,” complains LR Senator Sophie Primas, co-author of this resolution.

The Vice President of the Senate does not hesitate to call the Mercosur countries an “agricultural steamroller” capable of crushing European agriculture: “Mercosur is an economic giant, bigger than any of our partners. Argentina and Brazil alone export the same amount of corn each year as is produced in the entire European Union each year.

By allowing the sale of food produced without complying with the standards applicable to the European market in the EU, the elected officials are therefore worried about the weakening of the agricultural sector, especially the beef sector. “Thanks to the agreement, Mercosur’s share of beef imports on the European market would increase from 13 to 26%. It is on these products that our farmers create added value, so it is again an absolute danger for the livestock sector,” explains ecologist Yannick Jadot.

“We will not support the agreement at any price”

The newly appointed Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, former MEP Stéphane Séjourné, commented on the resolution proposed by the senators, suggesting that Emmanuel Macron had already called during COP 28 to “harmonize our trade regime with the Paris agreements.” We will not support the agreement at any cost, it will have to fundamentally improve in these topics,” assures Stéphane Séjourné.

However, the minister did not express a positive opinion on the proposed resolution on behalf of the government, but a “good wise opinion”. Stéphane Séjourné does not completely share the demands of the senators, especially on the topic of “mirror measures”. “It is work that takes time, these measures must be based on solid scientific foundations. There is a threat of retaliatory measures from our partners, we must necessarily give countries time to adapt,” defends the minister.

The former MEP, also the head of the Mercosur delegation in the European Parliament, has long believed that “we should not be afraid of the open trade agenda as long as it remains sustainable and balanced”. In this regard, Stéphane Séjourné believes that adopting a new “open, sustainable and proactive” strategy for the European Union’s trade policy can help guarantee a balanced free trade agreement with Latin America. This new policy, introduced in February 2021, announces its desire to ensure that every new trade agreement is concluded in accordance with the Paris Agreements and in line with European standards.

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