EU dismiss reports of ‘beefed up’ import quota to close Mercosur deal

Reports that the European Union has moved to increase its offer on beef access for Mercosur from 70,000t to 99,000t in a bid to close the major trade agreement have been denied.

Following yesterday’s EU-Mercosur trade negotiations in Brussels, a commission source said: “No offer was tabled by the EU”.

On Tuesday, the EU and Mercosur held constructive talks towards a trade agreement. No offer was tabled by the EU during this meeting.

“At this stage, for the negotiations to move on, both sides should make an effort to meet each other’s expectations; while, recognising each other’s sensitivities,” the source said.

A chief negotiators’ meeting will take place on Friday (February 2), in Brussels, to take the discussions further.

Ministers from the Mercosur bloc countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay met EU trade and agriculture commissioners in Brussels with the aim of reaching an agreement on the long-awaited deal.

The South American trade bloc is believed to be willing to gradually reduce tariffs on European imports over a 10-year period for the majority of products. However, in return, the bloc is urging the EU to accept more of its beef imports.

During the talks held in Brussels, the EU signalled its willingness to make an effort on the topics that are important for Mercosur and difficult for the EU.

In return, it is understood that the EU expects its Mercosur friends to make a similar effort on the topics that are important for the EU.

In a statement on Twitter, Copa-Cogeca – the EU-wide body representing farmers and agri-cooperatives – said: “99,000t of EU beef is unacceptable for EU farmers. This will seriously jeopardise the EU’s strategy of reviving rural Europe for growth and jobs.

“Over 75% of EU beef imports – 246,000t – already come from these countries and it’s unacceptable that the EU has increased its offer in return for concessions in other sectors. We need fair and balanced trade agreements.

Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has urged Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, to stand firm against Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmstrom.

“European consumers want food that is produced sustainably, is safe and healthy, protects the environment, helps fight climate change, respects the animals, is fair to farmers and which is produced in the EU.

Commissioner Malmstrom seems prepared to turn her back on these fundamental EU principles to do a deal at any cost with the Brazilians.

The IFA president stated that with over half of the Irish export market for beef to the UK already under threat from Brexit, it is “lunacy” for the EU to consider a deal which will involve increased beef imports into the single market at present.