Macron warns he won't sign Mercosur deal if Brazil leaves climate accord

French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters

Ciaran Moran, Claire Fox and Michel Rose

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday he would not sign any trade deal with Brazil if President Jair Bolsonaro pulled out of the Paris climate accord, threatening to put a spanner in the works of EU-Mercosur trade negotiations.

EU talks with the Mercosur group of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the world’s fourth-largest trade bloc, have intensified, with Bolsonaro saying this month a deal could be signed “soon”, while the EU called it the “number one priority”.

However, EU nerves about a surge of beef imports and Mercosur hesitation about opening up some industrial sectors, such as cars, have meant past deadlines have come and gone. A deal may be close, but just beyond reach.

Irish farmers fear an extra 99,000 tons of beef and 200,000 tons of chicken/turkey and 600,000 tons of ethanol from South America will undermine farmers in Europe, particularly in the red meat sector.

France in particular is worried about the impact on its vast agriculture industry of South American imports that would not have to respect strict EU environmental regulations.

“If Brasil left the Paris accord, as far our we are concerned, we could not sign a trade deal with them,” Macron told reporters in Japan ahead of a G20 meeting.

“For a simple reason. We’re asking our farmers to stop using pesticides, we’re asking our companies to produce less carbon, that has a competitiveness cost,” he said.

“So we’re not going to say from one day to the next that we’ll let in goods from countries that don’t respect any of that,” he added.

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Earlier this year, France voted against the opening of trade negotiations between the EU and the United States because of Washington’s decision to quit the Paris climate accord.

However, the French move did not block opening of the trade negotiations because the necessary majority of EU member states backed it. It is unclear whether France would be able to rally other countries in the EU if it voted against a Mercosur deal.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said he can’t veto a Mercosur deal he hasn’t seen yet.

Minister Creed made the comments when questioned by farm organisations at the Climate Change Adaptation Plan Public Consultation launch this morning as to whether he would veto an EU trade deal with Mercosur given the consequences it would have on beef trade in Ireland and also its negative environmental impact.

“I don’t think it’s at a stage where we have even seen a deal, we would have to see what’s in the deal. If the deal doesn’t stick to our paths obviously then issues will come in to play but I can’t say that we'll veto a deal that we haven’t seen,” said Minister Creed.

“I don’t want to avoid the elephant in the room in the context of the points made by farm organisations on Mercosur. The views reflect entirely the views that we have. I’m aware that there is speculation that we are on the cusp of a deal.

“It is concerning, undoubtedly so but we have raised both the environmental issues, the volume issues, the specification issues ourselves with the Commission and we haven’t seen any definitive outcomes yet. We will continue to ensure our voice continues to be heard and reflected in whatever deal is negotiated ultimately.”

ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch challenged the Minister and Department officials on a possible Mercosur deal which he said would undermine the financial viability of farmers to fund climate change measures.

A Mercosur deal coupled with a hard Brexit would be "an extraordinary double hit" for the Irish beef industry, Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy has said.

While Ms McCarthy said that Brexit is an unequalled challenge, she said that a hard Brexit coupled with another trade issue like Mercosur would not be welcomed.

“We have always positioned Brexit as the biggest strategic challenge the industry has ever had to face and the scale of it and the focus of it is unequalled. Brexit combined with another challenge isn’t something to be welcomed,” she said.

“I wouldn’t predict the demise or otherwise of an industry but I would say it would be an extraordinary double hit for an industry if that was to happen particularly when you see that it is our beef industry that will be hit by this.”


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