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13th Dec 2019

Draft EU-Mercosur trade treaty leaked

  • Greenpeace is afraid that increased Mercosur meat exports to Europe would damage the Amazon rainforest (Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT))

The Dutch office of environmental pressure group Greenpeace published 171 pages of classified documents detailing progress towards a free trade agreement between the EU and four Latin American countries on Wednesday (6 December).

The group said that the European Commission and the EU's national governments have failed to uphold their promise of more transparency on trade deals.

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  • One of Mercosur members, Argentina, is famous for its beef (Photo: Al Turner)

"Backroom trade talks undermine democracy and public trust in politicians," the campaign group said in a press release.

The documents provide an insight into the trade talks with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – the Mercosur bloc – but are also possibly out of date.

They include the EU's offer to Mercosur, dated simply 2016.

It said that Mercosur countries could export to the EU an additional 78,000 tonnes of beef; 12,250 tonnes of pork; 78,000 tonnes of poultry; 2,000 tonnes of sheep meat; 13,000 tonnes of milk powder; 4,000 tonnes of butter; 20,000 tonnes of cheese; 600,000 hectolitre of ethanol; 10,000 tonnes of garlic; 200,000 tonnes of soft wheat; 700,000 tonnes of maize and sorghum; 40,000 tonnes of rice; 1,100 tonnes of processed sugar; and 300 tonnes of processed cereal.

Europe's farmers are looking at the talks with apprehension, for fear of competition.

The bulk of the documents are a draft version of parts of the EU-Mercosur deal, dated 19 July 2017.

They give the status of the text, as well as where EU and Mercosur positions diverge, after a round of negotiations which occurred 3-7 July.

There have been two additional rounds of talks since, in October and November.

The papers are part of a package of documents sent to the Council of the EU's trade policy committee, which is made up of trade experts from national governments.

A cover note described 15 separate documents, but Greenpeace only released – or acquired – seven. Thus the specific details are lacking context.

It showed that the EU wanted – and that the Mercosur side had not yet agreed in July – that if a mark of origin label is required in a Mercosur country, that a 'Made in the EU' label would be accepted.

"For the purposes of the origin mark 'Made in the EU', each Mercosur Party shall treat the European Union as a single territory," the EU-proposed paragraph said.

The rationale behind this could be that EU countries who are less famous for a certain product could benefit from the EU stamp.

The EU also wanted , as of July, that the trade deal would hold Mercosur to a promise to uphold animal welfare, and to cooperate in combating antimicrobial resistance.

"The parties recognise that antibiotic resistance is a serious threat to human and animal health," the EU wanted the treaty to say.

The EU wanted the two sides to commit that they would "follow existing and future guidelines, standards, recommendations and actions developed in relevant international organisations, initiatives and national plans aiming to promote reduced use of antibiotics and relating to animal production and veterinary practices".

Fear for the environment

Greenpeace said the deal would harm the environment.

"Mercosur countries want to boost meat exports to Europe, which would push cattle farming into pristine habitats in the Amazon and the Cerrado regions in Brazil and the Chaco in Argentina. Why strike a trade deal that will mainly benefit European carmakers and industrial meat companies?" the group said.

The two sides seem to have agreed on some paragraphs on environmental protection.

"Each Party shall strive to improve its relevant laws and policies so as to ensure high and effective levels of environmental and labour protection," the draft text said.

It also acknowledged "the urgent threat of climate change".

However while Mercosur wanted to agree to "promote the positive contribution of trade to a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development and to increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change" – it wants to add the clause: "in a manner that does not threaten food production".

Meat production, in particular beef, is an important source of greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a main export product for Mercosur.

Greenpeace has leaked texts from EU trade negotiations before, and has campaigned actively against them.

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In a race against the clock, EU commissioners and Mercosur ministers meet in Brussels to make concessions on beef, cheese and cars in preparation for an "endgame" in trade talks, ahead of Brazil's elections.

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