EU farming group Copa-Cogeca has long made its opposition to the free trade agreement with Mercosur – a trade bloc consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela – clear. The group said any deal with Latin America would have a damaging effect on the EU’s agriculture industry, especially because the trade bloc had been reluctant to open up its market to Europe’s produce.
“European farmers are suffering from an unprecedented crisis, squeezed by low market prices and high input costs,” Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen said on Monday 11 April.
“The EU agri-food trade is expanding, but EU farmers don’t benefit at all at the moment. This is the last thing they need. Mercosur is already a major exporter of agri-commodities to the EU, with 86% of our beef imports and 70% of our poultry meat imports coming from these countries. They therefore do not need extra quotas, tariff-free, to increase their trade to the EU, especially since little of our beef is let into their countries. Furthermore, these imports do not meet the EU’s high environmental and quality standards and there are still concerns about safety aspects of meat production in these countries such as traceability.”
EU agriculture to lose €7bn
Pesonen branded the EU’s proposed decision to lower import tariffs on Mercosur-based beef imports as “unacceptable”. Pesonen’s vehement rhetoric underlines the anger felt by the EU farming body over the fact Mercosur may benefit from reduced tariffs without accepting European-based beef imports.
A recent study carried out by the European Joint Research Centre found that Europe’s agriculture sector would face losses in excess of €7bn if the free trade agreement with Mercosur on agricultural produce went ahead.
Meat market ‘has changed’
But the International Meat Trade Association (IMTA) suggested it was myopic to oppose a deal on trade with Latin America as it was difficult to predict what the global market for meat would look like in ten years’ time.
“IMTA can understand EU producers’ concern about a trade deal with Mercosur, which are already traditional suppliers of beef, lamb and poultry to the EU market,” said Liz Murphy CEO of the IMTA.
“Nevertheless, trade agreements set the scene for international trade over many years and, already, EU exporters see some opportunities in this area. The global market for meat has changed significantly over the past 10 years and who knows what it will look like after the next 10. Brazil has a huge population where a small increase in per capita meat consumption can change the global market. The key to trade agreements for the meat sector is to secure access and options for both importers and exporters, but being mindful that most EU producers find it difficult to compete head-on on cost with the larger-scale producers.”