The Irish Times | 20 January 2020
Mercosur deal at odds with EU carbon neutrality aim, study claims
by Kevin O’Sullivan
The controversial Mercosur trade deal is incompatible with the EU’s commitment to carbon neutrality and “may undermine global efforts to avert runaway climate change”, according to analysis conducted for the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament.
The EU and Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) last June reached a political agreement still subject to endorsement by national governments and parliaments, and the European Parliament – where Greens/EFA are a strong grouping.
Austria, France and Ireland are set to block the deal, which took 20 years to negotiate, under current conditions. It is in the process of technical and legal revision.
In spite of EU commitments to take greater account of carbon footprint, social justice and sustainability, the “dominant trade policy paradigm” in place since 2009 still applies, the study by Dr Luciana Ghiotto and Dr Javier Echaide concludes.
The Mercosur governments did not conduct “a single publicly available sustainable impact assessment in the last 15 years”, they note, while trade agreements with a business-as-usual approach lock societies into an unsustainable economic model.
“The EU will import more meat and other agricultural products. With them, we will import emissions, deforestation and human rights abuses – while endangering local farmers’ livelihoods. Already the Amazon is in flames to feed this trade.”
The type of trade and economic specialisations which the agreement encourages and locks in for decades are neither consistent with, nor contribute to, fulfilling the climate neutrality objective at the core of the EU’s Green New Deal. Each provision of the agreement must be assessed on the basis of sustainability, “and removed if need be”, the authors suggest.
In addition, to ensure clean supply chains, products have to be treated differently, notably their carbon footprint has to factored in and backed with binding and enforceable labour and environmental standards.
Green MEP Grace O’Sullivan said Europe recently acknowledged “we are in the depths of a serious climate crisis”, and declared all EU policies must contribute to carbon-neutrality targets. “The Mercosur-EU trade agreement flies in the face of that commitment.”
“There is a serious disconnect between tackling climate change, the biggest issue of our time, and a trade policy that has implications running decades into the future that will impact negatively on the entire planet.”
Irish Green Party agriculture spokeswoman Pippa Hackett said: “We have said all along this trade agreement was a bad idea, and this report confirms that to be the case.”
Irish agriculture was having a difficult enough time as it was, “without added pressures from the Mercosur deal, and the environmental and social injustices it supports”, she added.
As well as causing increased international reliance on cheap agricultural exports from the region, which would put Irish farmers under increasing pressure, the agreement would result in numerous serious consequences, she added. These included “continued deforestation and destruction of vital ecosystems; human rights violations and job losses in local car-manufacturing and textiles”.
The health of vulnerable people in the region would be negatively impacted “by their exposure to excessive use of pesticides; and an increase in CO2 emissions from trade”.