France will not ratify Mercosur deal in current form - farm minister

France's President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
France's President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

France's agriculture minister Didier Guillaume said France would not ratify a provisional trade deal with the Mercosur group of South American countries in its current form.

Three weeks ago, the EU became the first major partner with which Mercosur has struck a trade pact. Mercosur committed to more open markets in the face of a rising tide of protectionism and offered EU firms a potential head start.

France, the EU's largest farming power, has regularly expressed concern over the risk of a surge in South American agricultural exports to Europe.

French President Emmanuel Macron had initially welcomed provisions in the draft accord protecting European geographical origin certification for food products and limiting Mercosur exports of sugar and beef.

But growing uproar among the country's agricultural community and lawmakers since the deal was announced has put the government under increasing pressure before the agreement goes to parliament for ratification.

The Dail recently voted to press the government to lead opposition inside the European Union to a draft trade deal that Brussels has struck with the Mercosur bloc of South American countries.

A sign reading
A sign reading "Mercosur = a gift to multinationals" is pictured on a tractor during a protest by Belgian farmers outside a meeting of European Union agriculture ministers in Brussels, Belgium on Monday. Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Previously Italy's farm sector strongly opposes the trade deal that the European Commission reached with the Mercosur group of South American countries in June, Italian agriculture minister Gian Marco Centinaio said on Monday.

"We express a strong concern," Centinaio told reporters in Brussels. He said he believed the Italian government would oppose the deal, which requires a majority vote from EU states to be approved.

He said the deal was like a "gun aimed at the head" of Italy's farm sector, as it offered no guarantees. "There will be an invasion of products," said Centinaio, who is a close ally to the far-right deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini.

Yesterday, Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy described as “pivotal” an admission this week by EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malstrom that the trade deal with Mercosur will require the unanimous support of all member states. 

The Midlands North West representative said that this now meant that the rhetoric of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil representatives would be put to the test as Ireland is clearly in a position to reject this “devastating” trade agreement.

Earlier this week EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan came under fire from Irish MEPs on the Mercosur deal at the first meeting of the new EU Parliament Agri committee.

Independent Midlands North West MEP Luke Ming Flanagan questioned why the Commissioner introduced a €50m fund for the Irish beef sector where reduction of production was an option and weeks later signed a provisional Mercosur deal where 99,000 tonnes of beef would be coming from countries where production was “anything but sustainable.”

“As you know Commissioner, Ireland exports a quarter of a million of beef to the UK each year, if he (Boris Johnson) goes ahead with a no deal Brexit then our beef farmers face Armageddon,” he said.

Commissioner Hogan responded that if Mr Flanagan is “against the beef package fair enough, tell your farmers not to take it ,they don’t have to take it. If you’re against it you’re entitled to your opinion.”

Mr Hogan assured MEPS that the EU wasn’t sacrificing agriculture for any other sector and that 100pc of beef from Mercosur countries that enters the EU is checked.

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