MacManus: The latest on Mercosur from an MEP’s perspective

The trade agreement struck between the EU and Mercosur has suffered a blow in recent months – but the threat has not gone away, Irish MEP Chris MacManus has warned.

Under the trade deal, struck in 2019 between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American countries – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – a quota at preferential rates of 99,000t of beef was agreed.

The Midlands-North West MEP was speaking to AgriLand on the matter recently, where he gave his view as to where things are at.

In spite of recent moves by both trade blocs to discuss “a way forward” to ratifying the deal, there has been relatively little activity on the matter since the European Parliament voted for an amendment to the EU Common Commercial Policy that has been described as a rejection of the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement in its current form.

Commenting on the matter, MacManus said: “I’m relatively positive about our chances on beating this terrible deal.

Large countries like France, and Angela Merkel in Germany, have recently expressed their doubts about how viable it is to continue to turn a blind eye to the destruction of the rainforest as a result of Brazil ramping up production to make full use of the Mercosur deal.

“At home the current Taoiseach voted with Sinn Fein in 2019 to block the deal. However, strangely actually a number of weeks ago, one of the Fianna Fail MEPs voted against a similar motion in the European Parliament.

“Leo Varadkar also said that it would be wrong to ratify the Mercosur deal at this time. Now, of course there’s a certain amount of politics being played here since the Taoiseach instructed his party to vote against the Sinn Féin motion to block the deal.

“But I think all of these things are pointers that the deal is near the verge of collapse.

“In 2019, the deforestation was over 10,000km². That’s over half the size of my home province, Connacht. It meant that Mercosur became one of those areas where the views of farmers and environmentalists very clearly aligned.

It makes very little sense to be burning down rainforests in favour of shipping inferior beef thousands of miles to undercut our own producers.

“And as we well know Ireland is one of the most carbon-efficient producers of beef in the world.

“When we consider Brexit into the mix, I think it would be a totally unforgivable insult to farmers already struggling for market share to implement Mercosur.

“Sinn Fein opposed Mercosur from day one but I would not go so far as to say we have victory just yet.

“My fear would be that some kind of dodgy impact assessment on environmental grounds is produced, or some kind of political statement from Brazil, or they changed their leadership, and the EU leaders use that to say ‘we now feel confident that Brazil is going to play ball on the climate issue’.

You’ve got to remember that the lobby for the likes of German car manufacturers to get it done has not gone away; it’s simply waiting for politicians to have enough political cover to push it through.

“That’s why we [Sinn Féin] want to see an unequivocal rejection from the government – which is something that, up to now, is something they’ve gone to great lengths to avoid,” the MEP concluded.