The Mercosur threat: It hasn’t gone away you know

Just because the headlines have stopped hyping-up the prospects of a trade deal between the European Union (EU) and South America’s Mercosur alliance doesn’t mean that the issue should be forgotten about. In fact, the very opposite is the case.

In my opinion, Europe’s commitment to secure a free trade deal with Mercosur is yet another example of the EU’s declining support for those farmers trying to survive on its own doorstep. 

The truth is that local farmers have everything to lose and nothing to gain, if such a deal were to become reality. I used to think that free access to South American grain and soya would help to significantly reduce animal feed prices in this part of the world.

But given that the on-farm costs of our compound feed rations seem to have little linkage back to world commodity prices – under any circumstances – I have long given up on the ‘cheaper inputs’ argument, where any Mercosur trade deal might be concerned.

I might have a degree of sympathy for a trade deal with South America were it a case of the EU striving to help the many family farmers in that region get out of the poverty trap.

But, let’s be clear about this, a Mercosur deal will only benefit the industrialised farm businesses throughout that region.

There is an onus on Brussels to ensure that all the EU’s political and trade-related manoeuvrings are handled in a wholly democratic manner moving forward. And this brings into question the role of the European Parliament.

Surely it is MEPs alone who should have the final say on whether or not trade deals of any form can be ratified.

In fact, the EU Commission should be charged with the responsibility of going to the European Parliament and securing a mandate from the elected politicians regarding the very principle behind any envisaged trade deal, long before negotiations are finalised.

The last number of years are proof positive that the EU elite don’t always get it right. Brussels’ handling of the initial accession talks with Ukraine led to a swift response from Russia, one which continues to have a direct impact on the viability of every farming business here in Ireland, never mind the rest of Europe.

Moreover, the EU’s response to the Russian food embargo, in terms of the additional support made available to European agriculture, has been lukewarm to say the least.

And this brings me back to the point made at the top of this piece: Farming is, indeed, fast dropping down Brussels’ list of priorities.