Mercosur deal poses ‘huge cost to rural Europe’ – McGuinness

MEP Mairead McGuinness has warned the Mercosur trade deal will pose “a huge cost to rural Europe” as “uproar” over the European Commission’s proposed 70,000t beef offer escalates.

Although the Fine Gael MEP, and vice president of the European Parliament, could not confirm the scale of the beef quota to the South American Mercosur trade bloc, she said: “We are lead to believe that the offer is 70,000t.”

Speaking from Brussels, the midlands north-west MEP said: “There is uproar particularly among Irish and French colleagues here about any concession on Mercosur on beef and for very good reasons. Brazilian beef has been caught recently with less than ethical practices and such a volume of beef would have a very bad impact on the European beef market.

We are trying to impress among the non-agricultural people in the parliament here and on the non-agriculture commissioners that there will be a huge cost to rural Europe if we open up our market fully.

Speaking to AgriLand, McGuinness said she was “deeply concerned” that attempts were being made to “condition” thinking on the scale of the likely offer to be made on beef.

“All sorts of figures have been bandied about, nearly 90,000t at one stage. There is a deep suspicion that figures are being manipulated, so that minds would be conditioned to expecting a figure greater than what will finally emerge. This is being done with the intention that when a lower figure emerges it would give rise to feelings of relief.”

This week, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development also voted on opening up a mandate to negotiate free trade agreements with Australian and New Zealand.

“With Australia and New Zealand there are big concerns about sensitive products and that we shouldn’t allow a free market in relation to dairy for example. We in the agri committee took a very cautious approach as we are taking with Mercosur,” she said.

Meanwhile, as uncertainty over the EU-wide license for the world’s most commonly used weedkiller, glyphosate, looms large, McGuinness said concerns are now emerging over other potentially harmful pesticides.

“In addition to concerns around glyphosate we are now looking at products that are described as ‘endocrine disruptors’ that would be bad for human health.

“They are analysing products that are currently in use in farming systems, particularly plant protection products and where they are deemed to being disruptive to our endocrine system, our glands, then there may be a look at restricting or banning those products.

“The use of plant protection products is being questioned and farmers should also be part of the questioning,” she said.

The 28 EU member countries will meet in Brussels on October 5 and 6 to discuss if they should renew its glyphosate license for another 10 years.