A recent statement from the French government on the EU-Mercosur trade agreement has been welcomed by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

Pat McCormack, the association’s president, said the comments from the French – that they would apparently not ratify the trade agreement until “tangible and objectifiable” guarantees on the environment were provided by the Mercosur countries – were “absolutely right”.

The EU-Mercosur trade agreement has come in for criticism from all quarters since it was agreed, on the basis that it increases the amount of beef from Mercosur – consisting of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – imported to the EU tariff-free, while those countries fail to meet the same environmental standards as farmers in Europe.

McCormack argued that the “prospects of any agreement [being ratified] were now reduced to zero”, saying that it was unlikely the Mercosur countries would be able to supply the guarantees that the French are looking for.

“Not for the first time, we see France having the courage to insist that conditions and standards that are unhesitatingly asked of, and imposed upon, its farmers are at least met by the farmers of those nations wishing to trade with it,” he said.

The ICMSA president argued that other EU member states “now need to publicly endorse the French position and indicate too that they will be unwilling to even consider progressing the draft trade agreement until such time as solid and verifiable guarantees are supplied and verification procedures are agreed”.

However, McCormack suggested that this was the “end of the road” for any possibility of any version of the agreement to be ratified.

Mercosur was always logically impossible as well as being potentially environmentally catastrophic. The idea that raising the volumes of South American beef that could be imported would have no implications for forestry-clearance in already unregulated locations is delusional.

“Every time the EU let logic lapse and allowed the draft to move a little closer to reality, areas of forest the size of whole European provinces were cleared, with terminal consequences for bio-diversity,” he claimed.

“The idea that farmers in Ireland could…embark on the arduous and expensive transition to lower emissions, at the same time as wholly unregulated South American beef began flooding into our markets, was always contradictory nonsense,” McCormack concluded.