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‘It would be wrong’ – Varadkar puts brakes on Mercosur deal | 29 September 2020

‘It would be wrong’ – Varadkar puts brakes on Mercosur deal

by Margaret Donnelly

IN a boost for beef farmers, the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has indicated that he will not be bringing the Mercosur trade agreement for ratification to the Dáil this year or for the foreseeable future.

The deal brokered last year between the EU and a host of South American countries, including Brazil and Argentina, would have allowed an additional 99,000t of beef to be imported into the EU levy-free.

Farm organisations argued to allow the proposed volume of beef on to the EU market would have a severe impact on Irish and European farmers, who are already struggling from the impact of Brexit and falling consumption levels.

“Before we ratify this agreement, I think we need to agree a set of guarantees which strengthen environmental protections, particularly with regard to the Amazon rainforest and climate action,” Mr Varadkar told the Farming Independent. “These guarantees would be enforceable as part of any final Mercosur agreement.

“It would be wrong to ask Irish farmers to embrace stringent measures on the one hand, while significant damage continues to be inflicted on the Amazon rainforest. I have raised this matter at EU level and will be discussing it further with my colleagues on the EU Trade Council.”

It comes after the French government said that a new report on deforestation confirmed its opposition to the current version of the EU-Mercosur trade deal.

Brazil’s government said it disagrees with the claims that a EU-Mercosur trade deal would increase destruction in the Amazon rainforest and criticised French concerns about an agreement as "protectionist."

The report, which Brazil said was commissioned by the French government, "reveals the real protectionist concerns of those who commissioned it when dealing with the agricultural concessions made by the EU to Mercosur," Brazil’s note said.

ICMSA President Pat McCormack recently described the Mercosur trade deal as ’fatally flawed’.

"From Day One by the idea that the regulations and rules that the EU applied to its own farmers would not be applied to farmers and countries from whom it intended importing vast quantities of beef,” he said. “The hypocrisy of that position was always going to overtake it in the end."