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S2B Network | 29 June 2020
Time to rethink – Stop the EU-Mercosur agreement!
Negotiations between the EU and Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay), underway for over 20 years, culminated in a political agreement in June last year. The European Commission has since been preparing the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement for signature. But the agreement is highly controversial. The Austrian, Walloon and recently the Dutch parliaments even rejected the agreement in its current form, while key EU Member states (France and Ireland) have expressed clear criticisms. It is hard to identify any other trade agreement as committed to the thinking and political action of the past as the EU-Mercosur Agreement.
The EU-Mercosur Agreement stands for:
- the exacerbation of environmental destruction and the climate crisis through the expansion of car exports and the expansion of feed monocultures and grazing land. The meat and soy sectors continue to drive forward the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, the Cerrado and the dry forests of the Chaco, which are of essential importance for the stabilisation of the world climate and for biological diversity. The agreement will reward these practices. The Brazilian Climate Observatory writes in a statement: “Thus, environmental safeguards within the agreement, which were already insufficient even before COVID-19, have now made the document outdated.“ The recent report on the Amazon prepared for the EU Parliament, states that the “current forest fire and deforestation regime in Amazonia put at risk the world’s richest biodiversity.”
And yet, the agreement does not contain any innovative mechanism to ensure the Parties will respect the international commitments they have listed in provisions related to sustainable development. The report further adds: “In case violations persist, it only adds a channel of diplomatic discussions, with no possibility to impose material penalties (emphasis added).” While the environmental consequences of the agreement will be very concrete, the mechanisms to avoid them are insufficient. The situation described in the EP report alone should make clear the agreement cannot be ratified as it stands.
- the increase in human rights violations with impunity, including physical violence and the expulsion of small farmers and indigenous people from their lands. Many indigenous leaders and environmental defenders in the Mercosur have been murdered, five in Brazil alone between November 2019 and April 2020. Under the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in particular, human rights violations against minorities and members of the opposition, as well as the curtailment of workers’ rights, are the order of the day. By concluding a trade agreement with governments that promote policies of conflict and plunder, the EU is rewarding human rights violations and contradicting its own democratic values. The additional market access driven by this agreement is also likely to add further incentives to commit such abuses.
- an export-oriented agricultural policy that has a detrimental effect on agricultural producer prices on which farmers in Mercosur and EU countries depend. It will bring more harm to animals and damage local food production.Stronger animal welfare and sanitary standards in the EU compared to Mercosur countries make farming more expensive in the EU. Rather than strengthen Mercosur rules, this agreement will reward greater access to cheap meat exports to European markets, creating downward pressure on agricultural producer prices on both sides of the Atlantic. Rising meat exports, increased soy and sugar cane cultivation for livestock feed exported to the EU and agrofuels are intensifying the destruction of the environment, leading to more genetic engineering, massive antibiotics and pesticides use, and soil and water pollution. Moreover, many of the pesticides used in Mercosur are prohibited in the EU.
The COVID-19 crisis should be a wake-up call that biodiversity destruction and the pursuit of unfettered economic and globalized growth has exposed humanity to major threats. Business as usual is no longer an option. The Mercosur deal takes us backwards. Trade policy must, instead, support localised and shorter value chains less susceptible to disruption and greater ability of governments to create resilient and decentralized food and health systems with greater capacity to produce medicines and medical equipment at the regional level. The EU must transform its trade policy objectives towards multilateral trade rules that support and are subservient to ecological, social, human rights and development policies that keep us within planetary boundaries and promote peace. Instead, this agreement will deepen trade asymmetries between the blocs, increasing unemployment, environmental destruction and puts the health of the people on both sides of the Atlantic at risk.
Need for more, not less cooperation: The rejection of the EU-Mercosur deal should not be misconstrued as a rejection of constructive cooperation with the region. The EU must be a respectable and a respectful partner in the fight against hunger and poverty, climate change and the enforcement of ILO core labour standards, the rights of peasants and other persons working in rural areas as defined in the respective UN Declaration, human rights and strong animal welfare standards! Such cooperation must be transparent, inclusive and support the active engagement of civil society organisations. Instead, the EU’s planned agreement with Mercosur goes in exactly the opposite direction.
We therefore call on the Federal Governments and the EU Commission and EU-Parliament to reject this agreement!