The Irish Farmers’ Association is deeply concerned that Brazil could secure backdoor access to the European beef market courtesy of a new trade deal currently being negotiated between the EU and the Mercosur group of countries.

“If this was to happen, the impact on Irish beef farmers and processing companies could be dramatic,” an IFA spokesperson told AgriLand.

“We fully intend bringing this matter to the attention of the Commission in Brussels this week.”

The Mercosur group comprises Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuala and Argentina.  A spokesman for the European Commission told AgriLand that The EU is currently negotiating a new trade agreement with Mercosur as part of the overall negotiation for a bi-regional Association Agreement which will also comprise a political and a cooperation pillar.

He added:

“It should also be pointed out that any trade deal arrived at will provide for the movement of goods and services in both directions.”

However, Brussels is also making it clear that any future trade agreement with the South American group of countries will not override any existing animal health and or food safety regulations that are currently enshrined within EU legislation.

The EU is Mercosur’s first trading partner, accounting for 20% of Mercosur’s total trade. Mercosur is the EU’s 8th most important trading partner, accounting for 3% of EU’s total trade. EU’s exports to the region have steadily increased over the last years, going up from € 28 billion in 2007 to €57 billion in 2012.

Mercosur’s biggest exports to the EU are made of agricultural products (40% of total exports) and raw materials (28%), while the EU mostly exports manufactured products to Mercosur and notably machinery and transport equipment (45% of total exports) and chemicals (22% of total exports).

The EU is also a major exporter of commercial servicesto Mercosur (€16 billion in 2011), as well as the biggest foreign investor in the region with a stock of foreign direct investment that has steadily increased over the past years and which amounted to €286 billion in 2011 compared to € 130 billion in 2000.