EU set to offer beef quota to South Americans despite opposition from 11 Member States and farmers
Negotiations between between the EU and South America’s Mercosur bloc are set to take a major step forward next week with reports from Brussels that the EU Commission have agreed a new substantial offer on beef.
However, European Union nations led by France and Ireland have proposed postponing a farm trade offer to South America’s Mercosur bloc until rules are agreed to avoid unfair competition, diplomats said on Thursday, creating a potential obstacle to a deal.
In a letter to the European Commission, the countries said they were particularly vulnerable to imports of beef, ethanol, sugar and poultry from Mercosur and said an EU offer of import quotas would be “untimely” until a “level playing field” could be agreed.
The EU farm offer was due to be delivered next week during negotiations in Brasilia. Resolution of the differences over agriculture is crucial if the two sides are to reach a political framework accord by the end of the year, which is Mercosur’s goal.
The letter seen by Reuters seeking a postponement was signed by Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
A counter letter pressing for the EU to make a farm offer next week was signed on Thursday by Germany, Italy, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Spain Portugal and the Czech Republic, a European diplomat in Brasilia said.
“The last stretch of the negotiations will be difficult,” the diplomat said on condition he not be named.
Another European diplomat said negotiations, that have dragged on for 18 years, are at a crucial stage.