EU’s ‘red button’ and other controls under Mercosur deal

Mercosur countries will be subject to strict Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) standards, with consequences should these standards not be met, according to the European Commission.

A commission source, based in Brussels, commented on elements of the new EU-Mercosur Agreement, struck last Friday, and outlined that as part of the deal “regionalisation” was agreed to by both sides.

This, according to the source, means that, should a problem emerge, the region in question will be blocked, as opposed to the entire EU or Mercosur entity.

This could come down to: individual farms or businesses; regions of particular states; states; or even countries which would be blocked, depending on the scale of the problem.

Stressing that consumer protection was key to all talks, the person said: “We want to have something where we vet those who come onto our markets.

Not all states in Brazil will get access, because there will be audits, but not all farms in that state will get access, because this will be a process of vetting.

“We will be building on what we have, but the situation with this issue is one where we want to have clarity on who gets in first.”

It was noted that both the EU and Mercosur will have a “red button” to “push” at short notice if food scares emerge.

Member states, as the ones usually implementing customs and phytosanitary measures, would have a “vital role” in such an instance.

Deadlines in the event of such scares would have short deadlines, as low as 15 days, which was agreed to by both trade blocs.

It was noted that a “very constructive discussion” was had by the commission with Mercosur nations on phytosanitary matters, with the bloc’s agricultural sector eager to “shake off the stigma” and lose the “rotten apples”.

In the event of a “red button” being pushed, the farm or production system in question would be essentially struck off the list of entities eligible to export to Europe with any hope of getting back in described as “very difficult”.

In terms of other safeguards, it was noted that there is no agricultural safeguard specifically.

Rather, there are World Trade Organisation (WTO) and bilateral safeguards, which could also be triggered on products governed by tariff rate quotas, the commission source said.

“We did not want to have specialised safeguards for agriculture because this would have triggered a request from them possibly to have a specialised mechanism for their most sensitive items such as cars,” the source added.

However, if the European market is seriously disturbed, with imports adding to the problem, the union can impose a safeguard to halt South American produce to the affected market.

This would have to be an overall EU move, rather than one to be taken by member states.

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