Macron has reportedly warned of rushing headfirst into a trade deal with the Mercosur trading bloc of South American countries Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
France and Ireland have already voiced strong opposition to the speed of Mercosur negotiations, blasting a 70,000 tonne (t) tariff rate quota for beef exports offered by the EU offered to the South American bloc in trade talks last month.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) has praised Macron’s hardliner stance on Mercosur, calling on the Republic of Ireland’s Taoiseach (or prime minister) Leo Varadkar to adopt a similar position.
‘Danger’ for Irish beef
The IFA said Varadkar should “support the tough stance” taken by Macron on Mercosur.
“The beef sector in Ireland is more important to our national economy than any other member state,” IFA president Joe Healy said.
“The Taoiseach has recently raised the danger for Irish beef farmers in the event of a Mercosur deal with the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, and we expect him to keep our concerns to the forefront at EU level”.
IFA’s national livestock chairman Angus Woods told senior EU officials last week that the European Commission had turned a blind eye to the food production standards of South America, especially Brazil, in a bid to push through a deal as quickly as possible.
Mercosur opponents have latched on to multiple reports bringing Brazil’s meat production standards into disrepute in an effort to derail talks. An EU audit in May found some shipments of Brazilian chicken and beef were contaminated with salmonella or E.coli, while drug residues were found in horsemeat.
“Our system of traceability means all calves are double-tagged and registered on a central database, providing full traceability from birth to slaughter,” added Woods.
“In Brazil and other Latin American countries they have non-existent or unreliable tagging or traceability systems. Animals exported to the EU are often only tagged 40 to 90 days pre-slaughter. This is loosely enforced and sometimes tags are sent in the truck to the slaughterhouse with the cattle.”
Alongside traceability, IFA has questioned Brazil’s “failure” to meet EU standards on food safety, animal health and environmental management.
While opponents question whether Brazilian meat is fit for public consumption, industry motives to disrupt trade talks are not solely about food safety: many fear that cheap South American meat imports could undermine their position in the market.