Wednesday

6th Jul 2022

EU Commission 'failed' on assessing Mercosur trade deal

  • The ratification process is facing reluctance from some EU countries, such as France and Austria, notably over concerns about deforestation of the Amazon rainforest (Photo: Neil Palmer (CIAT))

The European Commission was guilty of "maladministration" in failing to make a timely assessment of any environmental impact from the EU-Mercosur trade deal before finalising negotiations, according to the European Ombudsman.

The EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) reached the agreement in June 2019, after two decades of negotiations.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

But the preliminary impact report - carried out by the London School of Economics - was only published in February 2020, with a final version released in July 2020.

"The EU projects its values through its trade deals. Concluding a trade agreement before its potential impact has been fully-assessed risks undermining those values and the public's ability to debate the merits of the deal," ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said in a statement.

"Not finalising the necessary assessment leaves the EU open to criticism that it is not taking seriously all concerns raised," she added.

The inquiry follows a complaint launched by five environmental and human rights organisations last year.

In its conclusions, published on Friday (19 March), the EU ombudsman does not make any recommendations, since the negotiation process has already ended.

However, it urges the EU Commission to change its conduct in the context of future trade negotiations, ensuring that the potential impact on the environment and other issues are fully assessed before any trade deal is agreed.

Similarly, the EU ombudsman found in 2016 that the EU executive should have undertaken a human-rights assessment before the EU-Vietnam trade agreement was concluded.

In February, Brussels committed to make sustainability the cornerstone of its trade agreements.

Environmental disaster 'waiting to happen'

The EU-Mercosur agreement is currently subjected to a legal revision, a preliminary step before it is translated in all EU and Mercosur official languages and submitted to the European Parliament and member states for its ratification. In the European Council, unanimity is required.

However, the ratification process is facing reluctance from some EU countries, such as France and Austria, notably over concerns about the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the intensive agro-industrial model of Mercosur countries.

Mercosur's biggest exports to the EU in 2019 were agricultural products, such as soya, coffee and meat.

If the deal is ratified, some agricultural goods produced in the bloc, like cereals or wine, would benefit from increased market liberalisation, but EU beef, rice, poultry and sugar would come under pressure.

Meanwhile, green groups warn that the implementation of this deal could lead to an increase in the EU's consumption of beef, soy, ethanol and other agricultural goods - further fuelling deforestation and human-rights violations of Indigenous communities.

"The EU-Mercosur deal is an environmental disaster waiting to happen. National governments must now reject this deal, or else they make themselves complicit in accelerating the destruction of the Amazon and other vital ecosystems," Jürgen Knirsch from Greenpeace told EUobserver.

Earlier this month, a coalition of more than 450 civil society organisations call on the EU and Mercosur countries to withdraw the agreement, arguing that it is an outdated 20th-century model of trade that has already proven to fail the planet.

MEPs divided

The European Commission is currently negotiating with Mercosur countries on "pre-ratification conditions," such as deforestation and climate change commitments, under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

This trade agreement is also one of the key priorities for the Portuguese presidency, which has previously argued that Europe's credibility is at stake should the bloc fail to ratify the deal.

Meanwhile, MEPs remain divided. Some say the trade deal is not compatible with the Green Deal, while others warn that geopolitical competitors will engage with South American countries if the EU does not.

"What would be the environmental and social consequence of withdrawing from the agreement and increasing the US and Chinese trade in the area - this is the key question," said German MEP Sven Simon (European People's Party), during the last debate on this issue in the parliament's trade committee.

Opinion

Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal

The European parliament debates on Tuesday the fires in the Amazon region. "It goes without saying that, in light of the gravity of the situation, Europe will need to renegotiate the Mercosur agreement", writes MEP Kathleen Van Brempt.

Commission defends Mercosur trade deal

EU commissioners defended a far-reaching free trade agreement between the EU and four Latin American countries, against critics who fear it will damage European farmers' livelihoods and the global environment.

Opinion

The EU and WTO: rethinking trade matters

The EU must differentiate between temporary and Covid-19-related action from permanent changes before making any final decisions based on the new EU trade policy strategy.

Opinion

Amazon deforestation and the EU-Mercosur trade deal

Regrettably, it seems that the EU has turned a blind eye to deforestation in the Amazon. So much so that over 400 NGOs are pushing 'Stop EU-Mercosur', to derail the free trade agreement with South America.

News in Brief

  1. France to nationalise nuclear operator amid energy crisis
  2. Instant legal challenge after ok for 'green' gas and nuclear
  3. Alleged Copenhagen shooter tried calling helpline
  4. Socialist leader urges Czech PM to ratify Istanbul convention
  5. Scottish law chief casts doubt on referendum
  6. British PM faces mounting rebellion
  7. Russian military base near Finnish border emptied
  8. Euro slides to lowest level in two decades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Legal action looms after MEPs back 'green' nuclear and gas
  2. EU readies for 'complete Russian gas cut-off', von der Leyen says
  3. Rising prices expose lack of coherent EU response
  4. Keeping gas as 'green' in taxonomy vote only helps Russia
  5. 'War on Women' needs forceful response, not glib statements
  6. Greece defends disputed media and migration track record
  7. MEPs adopt new digital 'rule book', amid surveillance doubts
  8. 'World is watching', as MEPs vote on green finance rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us