Brazil's Bolsonaro says Mercosur will soon sign EU trade deal

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: REUTERS/Adriano Machado
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Photo: REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Eduardo Simões

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Thursday the Mercosur bloc of South American countries will soon sign a trade deal with the European Union, and he thanked Argentine President Mauricio Macri for his role in pushing for the commercial pact.

Speaking in Buenos Aires, Bolsonaro also asked Argentine voters to remain rational when voting in this year’s presidential election, saying nobody wanted “new Venezuelas” in the region - a thinly veiled dig aimed at former leftist President Cristina Kirchner.

In a Facebook Live transmission later on Thursday, Brazilian Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said that closer ties between Brazil and Argentina would revitalize Mercosur, a group that Bolsonaro and others in his government have long criticized as an ideologically charged impediment to regional growth.

The governments of Argentina and Brazil are also negotiating the creation of a joint currency that could be called the “real peso” by combining the names of Argentina’s peso and Brazil’s real currency, a spokesperson for Argentina’s Ministry of Finance said.

The EU is seeking greater market access for its cars and car parts, dairy produce and better protections for speciality European food and drink. But farmers fear that agriculture will be sacrificed in order to do a better deal for the automotive sector.

EU farmers' federation Copa and Cogeca says a Mercosur deal would be a "dead end" for farmers and citizens, and says European producers will be "undermined" by cheaper and less-regulated products from abroad.

"The EU has already granted substantial market access on sensitive agricultural products, without getting much in return," said Pekka Pesonen, Copa and Cogeca secretary general.

The Mercosur talks, which have been going on for more than 20 years, have been marred by stops and starts. Several EU countries, particularly France and Ireland, object to what they see as an over-generous offer on beef. The EU insists any new import quota will not go beyond 99,000 tonnes.

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IFA President Joe Healy said in light of the untold potential damage of Brexit to the Irish and European beef sector, there is no way the EU Commission can propose to advance a Mercosur negotiation which involves a major increase in beef imports.

“Such a deal would be sabotage and a sell-out of the European Union beef and livestock sector.”

Joe Healy called on the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to make it clear to President Juncker and the EU Commission that Ireland will not ratify any deal which undermines the interests of Irish farmers and inflicts major damage on our €3bn beef and livestock sector.

Ireland must stand and insist that Europe rejects beef imports which fail to meet key standards on traceability, food safety and the environment.

Joe Healy said any attempt to try and agree a quick deal on Mercosur in the current political vacuum in the EU, following the European Parliament elections and before the next Commission is ratified, must be blocked, as it would be a complete breach of trust.

Joe Healy said “Brazil have a wilful disregard for environmental concerns, having said they do not accept the Paris Accord and increased beef exports are responsible for major deforestation in the Amazon”.

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