MercoPress | Friday, October 22nd 2010
Strong support from the European Parliament to trade talks with Mercosur
Members of the European Parliament expressed strong support for expanding trade with Mercosur but subject to clear “red lines” to ensure food security and prevent further environmental damage, said a resolution adopted on Thursday.
However the resolution while encouraging efforts to conclude trade agreements with the EU, points out grave concern about the protectionist measures taken by Argentina during the financial crisis against food imports.
These measures constitute “a real non-tariff barrier incompatible with WTO obligations”, warned MEPs, who also stress that this could pose serious obstacles to the ongoing EU-Mercosur negotiations.
The resolution drafted by MEP Helmut Scholz welcomes the conclusion of the conclusion of an EU-Central America association agreement and also urges for the continuation of negotiations with Mercosur, subject to a prior assessment of the impact of an agreement, which some estimates say could boost meat exports to Europe by up to 70% in the case of beef and 25% in that of poultry, mostly from Brazil and Argentina. These exports are “cheaper because of less stringent sanitary, environmental and social standards”, say MEPs.
The resolution also underlines that all multilateral agreements must enshrine clear standards in the following areas: environmental standards to fight climate change, deforestation and house-gas emissions; food security of imported agricultural products; protecting of small food producers from both sides, especially in the controversial banana sector, which affects EU outermost regions, and reducing overall poverty in Latin America and exchanging aid for trade.
Finally the Parliament non-binding text (supported 414 to76) recognizes “that in the past some cases of misconduct by companies operating in Latin America have occurred, involving ecological degradation; cases of exploitation of labor and serious human rights violations”. European multinationals are responsible for the EU’s image in the region and should play a constructive role by applying high environmental, social protection and quality management standards, stressed the MEP resolution.
The European Commission which negotiates for the EU 27 countries ended last week a second round of talks in Brussels with Mercosur and a third round is scheduled for next month in Brasilia.
Talks were resumed last May, —after having been stalled since 2004—, following an agreement reached at the EU/Latinamerican/Caribbean leaders’ summit in Madrid.
At the Brussels round it was also convened that by mid 2011 negotiations for a wide ranging trade and cooperation agreement should be concluded.
The resolution in spite of the “red lines” and warnings from some country members such as France and Ireland is seen as a strong support from the European Parliament to the EC to continue talks with Mercosur.
The EU is Mercosur and Chile’s main trade partner, second to Latin America. Between 1999 and 2008 trade between the EU and Latinamerica more than doubled to 173 billion Euros.