Major EU-Mercosur trade deal ‘off the table’ as talks collapse

The long-awaited major trade deal between the European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc is now “off the table”, AgriLand understands.

Despite renewed calls from European companies urging the EU to advance negotiations, high-level talks between the EU and representatives of the Mercosur group – comprised of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – have fallen flat in Brussels.

Last night, (Tuesday, July 17) a parliamentary source told this publication that: “Mercosur talks have failed. It is inevitable now that the deal will not go ahead; I believe it will be off the table for another five years at least.”

The source highlighted that repeated EU member state concerns over transparency standards, supply and food safety were the “main obstacles” that led to the breakdown in attempts to seal a deal this week.

‘Dissatisfied’

Speaking to journalists after Monday’s (July 16) meeting of the EU Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries in Brussels, the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, confirmed that negotiation talks have hit another hurdle.

Clearly because of the lack of progress that has been made on the technical working group there is not going to be any favourable, or positive, or lasting outcome on Mercosur this week.

“There was some expectation being created by some people that there was a possibility of a deal this week – but, we are dissatisfied in the European Union in relation to the progress made on the seven areas that we identified in December 2017 that were important for us,” the commissioner said.

Namely these seven areas include: cars; car parts; rules of origin; public procurement; maritime; dairy; and geographical indications.

“Clearly we are not satisfied with the progress that has been made, so there is not going to be a deal this week,” he stated.

It is also understood that the upcoming Brazilian general election – taking place this October – has posed further challenges in progressing the deal.

In recent months, there has been widespread speculation that the EU increased its offer on beef access for Mercosur from 70,000t to 99,000t in a bid to reach agreement on the significant free trade deal.

However, Commissioner Hogan, has previously stated that no formal offer of 99,000t has been proposed by the EU.

‘No Sense’

Last week, Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), called on EU Commission President Jean-Claude Junker and Commissioner Hogan to “deliver on their commitment” to Ireland by ensuring that there is “no Mercosur deal on beef while Brexit remains unsorted”.

In view of the lack of progress on Brexit and our critical dependence on the UK market for beef exports, the EU cannot agree to increased beef imports from Mercosur.

“Increasing EU beef imports makes no sense whatsoever and the commission should instruct Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to withdraw beef from the Mercosur negotiations,” he said.

Additionally, last month, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, discussed Ireland’s continued opposition to the inclusion of beef in the context of any EU-Mercosur trade agreement, with his French counterpart, Stephane Travert, in Cork.