Climate and agricultural practices by Mercosur countries “inconsistent” with EU values

6 August 2020 

Agricultural and climate practices by Mercosur countries are “inconsistent” with EU values, a new report has found. 

In a new assessment on the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement published jointly today by Uplift and TASC, the authors find that a further opening of the EU market to Mercosur beef producers will “undoubtedly incentivise” the sector’s growth. 

Increased beef production in the region poses the risk of further destruction to the Amazon rainforest, a global carbon sink and biodiversity haven. 

The intentional deforestation of the Amazon to facilitate new and expanding cattle ranches and crop plantations for animal feed will consequently, “exacerbate climate breakdown”.

Therefore, these policies contradict the values the EU have put forward in the Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy, the report concludes. 

The agreement, if passed, would allow for the free trade of beef, amongst other products, between the EU and Mercosur countries, namely Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. 

The text of the agreement was finalised just last month and the EU Council is expected to vote on its acceptance or rejection in October. 

A unanimous vote in the Council is needed, then the agreement must be voted on in the European Parliament, followed by a subsequent ratification from all Member States. 

The newly formed coalition of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party committed to an “economic and sustainability assessment” of the deal in the Programme for Government in order to “inform future action in this area”. 

Arguments for and against its passing

Now in its final text form, the report authors raised numerous intersectional concerns around the deal in its current wording. 

An increase of Mercosur-imported meat to the EU could drive down regional prices and would lead to negative impacts on local farming communities that are already facing financial hardship. 

The deal would also see increased demand for fossil fuels and mining, according to the report, and would infringe upon indigenous land as the agricultural industry looks to expand its production in Mercosur countries. 

Press conference of Phil Hogan, Member of the EC in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020.
Press conference of Phil Hogan, Member of the EC in charge of Agriculture and Rural Development, on the Common Agricultural Policy after 2020 Photo: European Union

And while there has been substantial resistance within climate activist and farming circles, European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan has argued in the past that the agreement could allow the EU to leverage Mercosur countries through trade policy. 

During his nomination hearings for the role last October, Mr Hogan fielded questions on environmental issues linked to the deal and said that without an agreement in place, the bloc would not “be in a position” to leverage with countries like Brazil to deal with widespread forest fires caused largely by deforestation.

The possibility of a trade agreement, he went on to say, led to the decision of the Brazilian president Jair Bolsnaro to “move with us and become part and signatory of the Paris Agreement”. 

Under the Agreement, he continued, Bolsonaro is “talking about 12 million hectares of reforestation between now and 2030” and “zero logging”. 

However, Brazil’s current right-wing leadership is moving the country in the exact opposite direction. The Bolsonaro administration has pursued anti-environmentalist policies, which included weakening deforestation legislation. 

The majority of deforestation to date in the Amazon is due to the expansion of the beef industry, and as a result, Brazil has now become the world’s largest beef exporter.

Bolsonaro has expressed an interest in expanding Brazilian agriculture even further, and specifically hopes to do so in the Amazon region.