Farmers have beef with EU
Europe's new trade deal with South American nations could spell trouble
The new trade treaty between the European Union and Mercosur (the South American bloc) agreed last Friday will be welcomed by consumers seeking cheaper beef, fruit and coffee - but the Irish agriculture sector has united in opposition to it and has called on Leo Varadkar to use the Irish veto on the deal.
The EU becomes the first major partner with which Mercosur has struck a trade pact, offering EU firms a potential head start. The European Union is already the South American group's biggest trade and investment partner and its second largest for goods trade.
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The two regions launched negotiations exactly 20 years ago and stepped up efforts to reach an accord after US President Donald Trump's election victory led the Europeans to freeze talks with the US and seek other global trading allies.
The opening to Europe also offers more avenues for development in South America, which has been caught in recent years between the ascent of top trading partner China and enduring US influence.
"This deal delivers a real message in support of open, fair, sustainable and rule-based trade because trade creates jobs for all concerned," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a news conference in Japan's western city of Osaka.
He was among the EU leaders and Argentine President Mauricio Macri gathered for the Group of 20 summit, who shared a podium at the event.
"This deal promotes our values and supports a multilateral, rules-based system," Juncker said, adding the commitment spoke a "lot, louder than 1,000 communiques".
His remarks came as some G20 leaders signalled difficulty in efforts to draft a summit communique, with disagreements ranging from trade to climate change. The deal stands in contrast to the Trump administration's aversion to multilateralism.
The EU's drift away from the US has spurred on a free trade deal with Canada and helped to reach accords with Japan and Mexico.
Now, after some 40 rounds of talks, the Europeans have reached a provisional deal with the trade bloc founded by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The EU and Mercosur are together responsible for 720 million people and a quarter of global gross domestic product, says the government of Brazil, whose right-wing president Jar Bolsonaro hailed the deal on Twitter as historic and one of the most important trade pacts of all time.
If ratified, the deal will be a victory for Bolsonaro, whose far-right politics face a chilly reception in much of the world.
Since being elected, the Bolsonaro regime has been dismantling Brazilian environmental agencies and has seen an increased rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.
In terms of tariff cuts, the trade deal could be the EU's most lucrative to date, with about €4bn of duties saved on exports, four times more than its deal with Japan.
Europe has its eyes on greater access for manufactured goods, notably cars, which face tariffs of 35pc. It wants its firms freed to compete for public tenders, and to sell more wine and cheese. Mercosur aims to boost exports of farm commodities.
Brazil said the pact would remove import tariffs on several farm products such as orange juice, instant coffee and fruit. It will also get a new 99,000-tonne quota of beef at a 7.5pc tariff, phased in over five years, and tariff-free 180,000-tonne quotas each of sugar and poultry.
"It is true that the agreement will make us compete with the best, but the agreement gives us room to manoeuvre," Miguel Braun, Argentina's economic policy secretary, said on Twitter.
"Europe will eliminate the bulk of its barriers in five years and Mercosur will apply a gradual tariff reduction over a period of up to 15 years, which will allow the private sector to adapt."
Before it takes effect, the deal needs final approval from Mercosur, the European Parliament and constituent countries, which Brazil's government has conceded could take years.
France is one of the European countries expressing concern about a surge in beef imports, while environmental groups, whose influence is stronger in the new European Parliament, say the pact could worsen deforestation.
The parties both committed to adopt the Paris climate change pact and a special chapter on sustainable development will cover issues such as forest conservation and labour rights.
France had threatened to veto the deal if Brazil pulls out of the Paris climate accord, but French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday stepped back from his earlier promise.