The EU recently signed its largest free trade agreement with the South American trade group, Mercosur. However, despite being considered a huge success by many, the agreement has been under fire from farmers, environmental groups, and politicians.
In a debate between MEPs of the Agriculture Committee, German Green MEP Martin Häusling was one of the first to express concerns about the deal. “It is worse than we feared. This is an agreement that is dangerous for our farmers,” he said.
The Mercosur trade deal would liberalise trade on agricultural products. So far, quotas have been established in order to prevent excessive imports that could result in price erosion. This would include products like beef, chicken and sugar.
However, critics argue that these quotas aren’t enough, and have been set too high. “The European beef market will be down in a few years,” said Martin Häusling. French Minister of Agriculture and Food, Didier Guillaume, added that he did not want “an agreement at any price”.
And he wasn’t the only one to criticise the deal. Members of almost every political party have done so, even though the agreement isn’t actually in force yet. There has been an agreement in principle; however, lawyers from both sides are still looking over the content of the agreement, which could take years.
Conservationists are also concerned that the higher demand for South American products could see the deforestation of the Amazon sped up, although the Commission doesn’t agree with this view.
But, according to a political analyst, Judy Dempsey, it’s normal for there to be criticism of the agreement. In an interview, she said: “Every trade deal runs into controversy with some of the EU member states. Trade is no longer just about commas, and you import this, and we export that”.
She went on to explain that trade agreements like this one can also be useful, as they can encourage the introduction of new, higher standards and rules, as well as more accountability in areas like environmental protection.
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