In a meeting with EU farm ministers on Monday 11 April, the European Commission was warned that negotiating “unfair trade concessions” with the South American trade bloc Mercosur, could heap the pressure on struggling EU sectors, like beef.
Since 2010, the EU has been in negotiations with Mercosur – an alliance between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela – to negotiate a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement that includes industrial and agricultural goods.
EU farming body Copa-Cogeca has been a staunch rival to the EU-Mercosur deal and, on Monday 11 April, secretary-general Pekka Pesonen criticised the Commission’s “unacceptable” plan to lower tariffs.
Lack of balance
In the meeting in Luxemburg yesterday Thomas Magnusson, the president of Cogeca, warned that any attempts to offer lower tariffs on “sensitive” agricultural products would hit beef producers hard.
Magnusson also said the deal would have a negative impact on Europe’s beleaguered pork industry, with prices at their lowest level in years. He called for the EU to open up new markets for pork with the Russia-EU trade dispute still rumbling on.
According to data cited by the Cogeca president, Mercosur is already a well-established exporter of agricultural goods to Europe. He said around 86% of the EU’s beef imports and 70% of poultry imports originated from the Mercosur countries. As a result of the large market share of meat exports to the EU, Magnusson said Mercosur does not need tariff-free trade to boost its supply of meat into Europe.
He also highlighted the lack of balance over bilateral trade with Mercosur, which, he claimed, is reluctant to open its market to EU-based beef.
The European Livestock and Meat Trading Union (UECBV) has also raised concerns over the Mercosur deal, suggesting South America should “demonstrate a commitment” to international health standards.
“The Mercosur countries will have a free access to the EU as a single entity, while the EU has no guarantee of a free circulation of its products within the Mercosur [region],” said the UECBV in a letter to the European Commission.
“Furthermore, Mercosur countries have been maintaining SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary] barriers against the EU livestock sector and the products thereof.”
Some of these measures include a ban on all EU beef and veal products going into countries like Brazil, owing to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) fears.