European producer asks EU to not resume negotiations with Mercosur

Credit © European Union, 2014Copa-Cogeca, the European confederation of farmers and agricultural cooperatives, is asking the European Union (EU) to not resume negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with Mercorsur, unless certain requirements are met by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. This new mobilisation by the European farmers happens in the midst of signs that negotiations, after years of silence, have chances of starting up again. Whenever this happens, the European agricultural federations rallied to attack the initiative.

This Tuesday, 13th May, negotiators from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay will try and seal a common offer on liberalisation to be presented to the EU.

Pressure from European agriculture includes a letter to the EU agricultural commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, insisting that an agreement with Mercosur would lead to a loss of billions, particularly in the livestock sector of the continent. Copa-Cogeca has alleges that more than 70% of beef and chicken imported by the 28 Member States of the EU already come from the Mercosur countries. It again makes accusations that these products do not live up to the same health and traceability standards required from European producers. It estimates that negotiations still depend on a Mercosur commitment to improve its sanitary standards and that the bloc suspends some of its obstacles towards European agriculture.

Irish meat producers, who claim to be ‘on their knees’ because of difficulties in the area, claim that European beef is banned in Brazil. Copa-Cogeca also complains that Mercosur does not have an integrated common market and thus European agricultural products can not be exported in the same way to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

The opposition from European ranchers to Mercosur firmly continues after the EU’s agreement with Canada which has already given a slice of the market to Canadian producers. Brazil and Argentina’s slice tend to be bigger. In last month’s discussions in Brussels, EU negotiators did not disclose to Mercosur what their offer would be, but did suggest that it would be ‘better’ than the one proposed in 2004, the last one officially communicated.

In that year, the EU offered a quota of 100 thousand tons for beef, less than the 156 thousand tons which had been informally promised in discussions. In Brussels, analysts believe that at the moment Europe is focused on the European Parliamentary elections next week, and after that, the choice of president of the European Commission.

Luigi Gambardella, president of the EUBrasil Association, an entity which greatly supports the conclusion of the bi-regional agreement, notes that a number of studies show that European agriculture would greatly benefit from the liberalisation in between the two blocs. “The EU’s agricultural exports are focused in areas with a higher added value such as olive oil, wines and other beverages. With such an agreement, the EU’s agri-food products would also have a larger quotas in the Brazilian and Mercosur markets. Complementarity is the keyword”, he says. For Gambardella, it is important that the Brazilian agricultural sector helps to show that the agreement is a good opportunity. “Brazil’s agri-food industry is very competitive and would allow for more balanced trade between the two blocs”, he says.

Source: Valor Econômico