Mercosur Agreement: the EU Turned a Blind Eye to the Concerning Situation in Brazil

By signing a trade agreement with the South American trade bloc Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay), the European Union has missed a chance to stand firm on European principles. Slow Food Europe regrets that the main concerns, earlier expressed by more than 300 organizations over the deteriorating human rights and environmental situation in Brazil, have been ignored.

                                                                    Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Since Jair Bolsonaro became Brazil’s President at the beginning of 2019, his government has dismantled environmental protections, tolerated incursions by armed invaders on Indigenous Peoples’ lands, and overseen a dramatic rise of deforestation rates in the Amazon, undermining years of progress. During the first 100 days in power, the Bolsonaro administration has approved more than 150 new pesticides for use, many of which are banned in the EU due to safety concerns. Brazil is already the world’s largest user of pesticides. The EU countries turned a blind eye to concerning developments in Brazil, choosing to put Brazil’s environment and its indigenous population at risk. 

Even though the details of the agreement are yet to be revealed, it is clear the Mercosur deal has opened the door to cheap beef and poultry imports from South American countries, putting the livelihoods of European meat producers at risk. While Slow Food campaigns to “Eat less meat, of better quality” in line with the great number of scientific publications recommending a reduction of meat consumption to reduce both environmental and health impacts, the EU does the opposite – by signing the deal it undermines the efforts made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change. The EU is already an extensive market for Brazilian soy and beef, the production of which is one of the factors driving deforestation at alarming rates. Once implemented, the deal is expected to eliminate 99% of agricultural and industrial tariffs on both sides, which is likely to increase exports to an even greater extent.  

Slow Food Europe is also concerned that the Mercosur trade deal will also have real effects on those who did not sit at the negotiating table – farmers and smallholders in third-party countries. The abolished import duties on Brasilian coffee and chocolate could seriously affect the African coffee and chocolate producers and worsen their fragile situation. 

The deal, which was sealed this weekend, is the culmination of 20 years of talks over one of the world’s largest regional commercial accords. The details of the agreement have not been revealed as it has yet to be approved by the 28 EU Member States, and the European Parliament. Last week, French president Emmanuel Macron promised not to sign the deal if president Jair Bolsanaro pulled Brazil out of the Paris Agreement. Even though later Macron confirmed his support of the deal, the French government made it clear that it is “not yet ready to ratify the agreement.” Slow Food Europe urges the other Member States and the European Parliament to reconsider all the negative aspects of this agreement and to reject the deal.

In the past, the EU has suspended trade preferences with countries involved in human rights violations, such as Myanmar and the Philippines.

Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe

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