French pull back from putting brakes on Mer­co­sur trade deal

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE -

OP­PO­NENTS of a trade deal with the South Amer­i­can Mer­co­sur bloc have placed their faith in French pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron scup­per­ing it be­fore the year’s end, writes Sarah Collins.

But Mr Macron failed to put the brakes on the Mer­co­sur ne­go­ti­a­tions dur­ing a meet­ing of EU lead­ers last week.

EU lead­ers in­stead agreed to press ahead with talks. Euro­pean Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker says the bloc will “con­tinue to do ev­ery­thing” to con­clude a deal be­fore the end of the year.

“It’s im­por­tant,” Mr Juncker told re­porters af­ter the Brussels sum­mit. “We un­der­es­ti­mate the im­por­tance of Mer­co­sur for the Euro­pean Union.”

The EU es­ti­mates a deal with Mer­co­sur could dou­ble EU ex­ports to the re­gion — mainly cars and chem­i­cals — which stand at €66bn a year. It says the deal would elim­i­nate €4bn a year in tar­iffs and knock down reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers to the lu­cra­tive mar­ket.

But there are at least 11 coun­tries — in­clud­ing Ire­land and France — who op­pose the EU’s lat­est of­fer to Mer­co­sur on beef and other sen­si­tive agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, which they say goes too far too fast. Op­po­nents say that open­ing up the mar­ket to cheaper beef from Mer­co­sur, at the same time as em­bark­ing on trade deals with New Zealand and Aus­tralia, will hit farm­ers hard.

EU beef im­ports from the South Amer­i­can bloc are cur­rently es­ti­mated at around 220,000 tonnes a year. The lat­est of­fer to Mer­co­sur, tabled at talks earlier this month, would lower tar­iffs on 70,000 tonnes of beef.

EU lead­ers did not get into de­tailed talks on trade at the sum­mit, which was over­taken by de­bates on mi­gra­tion, Brexit, tax and the fu­ture of Europe. A next round of talks with Mer­co­sur is due to take place early next month.

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