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France awaits climate progress in EU-Mercosur talks -agriculture minister

Reuters | 17 February 2023

France awaits climate progress in EU-Mercosur talks -agriculture minister

By Gus Trompiz and Sybille De La Hamaide

PARIS, Feb 17 (Reuters) - France is waiting to see if Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s return to power in Brazil will allow progress on climate and deforestation issues that remain red lines for Paris in any EU-Mercosur trade deal, its agriculture minister said.

France has been a leading opponent blocking a draft deal reached in 2019 by the European Union’s executive and the Mercosur bloc, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, meanwhile, has blamed European protectionism for holding up the deal.

The European Commission and Germany have this year urged a resumption of trade talks to conclude an agreement.

"The president has changed (in Brazil), the question is whether the agreement will change," French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau said.

"I think a red line overall is something that would add to greenhouse gas emissions in countries that trade with us," he told Reuters in an interview.

Lula’s election win last year over Jair Bolsonaro, who was criticised in Europe for scaling back commitments to preserve the Amazon rain forest and support global action against climate change, has raised expectations of improved diplomatic ties.

France has pushed for the EU’s international trade deals to respect the bloc’s standards in areas like environmental protection.

As the EU’s biggest agricultural producer, France has faced protests from farmers worried that cheaper South American produce will flood the European market if a trade deal is struck.

President Lula has promised to overhaul Brazil’s climate policy and halt destruction of the Amazon.

International trade was vital for food security, particularly given climate and geopolitical risks, Fesneau said, arguing that a recent trade deal between the EU and Canada, known as CETA, had benefited France despite widespread criticism.

"It’s not about being for or against Mercosur. The question is what reciprocity clauses are in the agreement."

Russia’s one-year-old invasion of Ukraine remained a threat to global grain supply, Fesneau said, reiterating a call for alternative land routes from Ukraine to the EU to be maintained to counter the risk of renewed disruption to Ukraine’s sea exports.

 source: Reuters