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Express | 2 September 2020
EU revolt: Germany threatens to plunge bloc into crisis by rejecting new trade deal
By Joe Barnes
Agriculture minister Julia Klockner said her European counterparts are very sceptical of the agreement because it heaps unneeded pressure on the bloc’s farmers. She insisted the EU-Mercosur trade agreement will not be ratified in the near future. “I do not see the Mercosur agreement being ratified yet, I have very clear reasons why I am very, very sceptical,” she said.
“With regard to Mercosur, we agriculture ministers are very, very sceptical and I can say the same for almost every minister here.”
Ms Klockner’s warning came during an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Koblenz, Germany.
She chaired the gathering as part of Germany’s rotating presidency of the bloc.
The EU agreed the trade deal with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay last year after two decades of negotiations.
The proposed pact will allow imports of 99,000 tonnes of beef, 180,000 tonnes of poultry and 25,000 tonnes of pig meat without trade tariffs.
Farmers have warned they will be undercut by their South American counterparts, who they say can produce meat at cheaper prices because of lax climate change targets.
Ms Klockner added: “If we see rainforests being cut down, like in Brazil, to quickly get cropland on which feed and food is grown very cheaply in a way that is harmful to the environment, which then enters our market and which our farmers cannot compete with, then this distorts competition – mainly because we have stricter rules.”
The Mercosur pact has divided the EU with the Austrian and Dutch parliaments having already rejected the accord.
Belgium, France, Ireland and Luxembourg are all vocal in their opposition to the trade deal.
Until now, Angela Merkel’s Germany has been a steadfast supporter of the pact.
Her spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “We have serious doubts about whether the agreement can be implemented as planned when the situation is seen.
“We are sceptical. The Amazon affects the whole world.”
The European Council is expected to vote on whether to accept or reject the trade deal in October.
If it secures the unanimous approval of all 27 member states, then the agreement must be ratified by the European and national parliaments.
Climate change activists have targeted the proposed EU pact.
Luisa Neubauer, an influential German climate campaigner, said: “Angela Merkel approved our criticism of the agreement with Mercosur, and she does not intend to sign it.”