Calls for independent inspections of Mercosur countries

Calls have been made for independent inspections to be carried out on Mercosur countries to verify food safety standards and traceability of meat before any further trade volumes are agreed.

This is the view of Irish MEP and leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the European Parliament Sean Kelly.

He raised Irish concerns over the EU-Mercosur trade deal, currently being negotiated, in a meeting with both the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstrom, and Agriculture Commissioner, Phil Hogan, in Strasbourg this week.

Commenting on the matter, Kelly said: “The negotiations between the EU and the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) are at a decisive point – it is now that we need to examine the details of the proposed agreement.

We are not only concerned by the volumes of imports being discussed, especially with regard to beef, but also by food safety standards. We can’t forget that, just last year, Brazil was embroiled in a food safety scandal which revealed serious violations by meat companies.

“The scandal was a red alert for many of us in the EU, where we have strict food safety and quality standards.

“We have traceability through country-of-origin labelling and many independent inspections to ensure producers respect those standards and that European consumers can be assured that they are buying quality, traceable meats.

“As it stands, we cannot guarantee the same standards for possible imported meat from the Mercosur countries. These conditions have not been taken over by Mercosur under the chapter on sanitary and phytosanitary measures on which an agreement was reached earlier,” Kelly said.

Additional deficit

Furthermore, he added that the Joint Research Centre has estimated that the absence of a fair playing field could result in an additional deficit for the EU in the agro-food trade balance – amounting to €7 billion.

The Irish MEP urged commissioners Malmstrom and Hogan to reflect on these serious concerns, which are held by Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Kelly – along with fellow MEPs – also asked that the European Commission’s negotiating team ensures strong guarantees on food standards and traceability for meat by independent inspections in Mercosur countries, before agreeing additional trade volumes.

In response, Commissioner Hogan outlined the existing checks on all the meat coming into the EU from Mercosur countries and added that even more stringent controls might be put in place – however, he said the system is in order.

The commissioner also highlighted new opportunities were opening up for European producers in trading with Japan and Singapore and China.