The Greens/EFA | 9 January 2024
The EU-Mercosur deal would be a setback for people and planet – let’s put it in the past
by MEPs Saskia Bricmont and Anna Cavazzini
When you’re in the supermarket, do you check if your chocolate or coffee is fair trade? To many of us, it matters where our food comes from and we want to make sustainable choices. This could become increasingly difficult under the EU-Mercosur trade deal, which puts social rights and the protection of the rainforest at risk.
As we enter 2024, it is time to move on from the unfair and unsustainable trade deal that the EU has been pursuing with Mercosur countries. We want a forward-looking partnership on sustainability that puts social rights and environmental goals before short-sighted economic profits. Let’s put the people and the planet first, both in Europe and Mercosur partner countries.
What is the EU-Mercosur trade deal?
The EU-Mercosur deal is a trade agreement between the European Union and Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – collectively known as the Mercosur countries. Negotiated since 1999, it was finalised in 2019, but has not yet been ratified by the European Parliament or the 27 EU Member States. The deal will increase agricultural imports from Mercosur to the EU, intensifying deforestation. The deal will also increase EU exports, including cars, car parts, machinery, chemicals including pesticides, and pharmacological products to Mercosur countries.
The deal has proven to be controversial. Activists, civil society and experts have sounded the alarm about the possible ramifications for the environment and human rights. The European Ombudsman criticised the European Commission for not finalising the sustainability assessment on the EU-Mercosur deal before concluding negotiations. Nonetheless, the European Commission remains eager to ratify the deal as swiftly as possible.
A dinosaur deal in times of climate emergency
For now 25 years citizens, civil society and experts have been mobilising against this deal, be it in Europe or Latin America. Because this deal would increase deforestation and the destruction of some of our planet’s most unique and crucial ecosystems, like the Amazon. While COP 28 re-iterated the call to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, the world is failing on this pledge and the EU and Mercosur need to do their part. Nature and the climate are in crisis, and this deal would strike another blow.
Concerns about the deal are wide-spread. In a study commissioned by the Greens/EFA group, more than 46% of business leaders said they were concerned about its environmental impacts, and 49% said they were in favour of legally binding environmental protections in the agreement, including sanctions.
“Time to call off this deal. Free-traders have been pushing desperately but the mobilisation for the environment and social rights has worked and the Commission has been unable to sign the deal this autumn. We will keep up the fight to ensure EU leaders do not put environmental and social concerns under the carpet to sign this deal against public opinion and public interest in the EU and in the Mercosur countries themselves.”
– SASKIA BRICMONT MEP
Protecting social rights on both sides of the ocean
From indigenous people protecting nature to farmers working hard to shift to sustainable ways of farming, this deal would put multinationals and short-sighted economic profits before social rights and human rights. Why? It would increase indigenous land-confiscation and unfair competition against sustainable farming. On top of that, the deal jeopardises working conditions and jobs. It also risks aggravating gender inequality and will favour multinationals over local SMEs.
Promoting sustainable ways of farming and food safety
In Brazil alone, over 500 pesticides are permitted, 150 of which are prohibited in the EU. Instead of a deal that imports food containing these pesticides in Europe, we need to help partner countries phase them out to improve food safety. That includes the EU stopping exporting pesticides banned in the internal market to Mercosur countries. Animal welfare is also at stake: improving farming conditions for livestock in Europe should not be undermined by the EU closing its eyes on imports.
Partnering with Mercosur countries for sustainable development
Mercosur countries and their people are our equal partners. Rather than exploiting them and damaging their environment, we need to pursue sustainable development hand in hand. Rather than a trade deal that does not have enforceable sustainability provisions, we need to support them in reaching sustainable development goals, cooperate on sustainable trade and stop exporting goods to them that we deem damaging for our own health and environment.
“We need to prioritise sustainability, and work with our Mercosur partners, especially progressive leaders like Brazilian President Lula, to find an alternative way of cooperating and strengthening our relationship. We cannot accept a trade agreement with no enforceable deforestation mechanism, to protect the Amazon and other ecosystems of major importance for the planet”.
– ANNA CAVAZZINI MEP