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ECONOMY | 16-03-2021 17:26

More than 450 NGOs, groups condemn ‘obsolete’ EU-Mercosur trade deal

More than 450 civil society groups, associations and NGOs call on Mercosur, European Union to “abandon” controversial free-trade deal.

More than 450 civil society groups, associations and non-governmental organisations have united to call on nations to “abandon” the controversial EU-Mercosur trade deal.

Underlining the strong opposition to the accord, as yet unratified, that is growing in Europe, hundreds of groups announced Tuesday they were uniting to form the Stop Ceta-Mercosur collective in a bid to end the agreement. 

In a statement, the organisations said that the European Union’s deal with the Mercosur regional bloc – made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – was “part of a line of obsolete commercial commitments dating from the 20th century which have destroyed the planet." Among the signatories are organisations such as Attac, Greenpeace, Oxfam and Extinction Rebellion UK .

The EU's draft deal with the South American trade bloc would create a free-trade area of more than 750 million people. But the ratification process has stalled among the EU's 27 members, especially France and Germany, notably over concerns about Brazil's perceived lack of commitment to protecting the Amazon rainforest.

A French government-commissioned report last year found the deal would fuel an increase in South American beef production and give rise to a 25-percent rise in deforestation.

In its statement, Stop Ceta-Mercosur said the ongoing destruction of biodiversity in the Amazon, Cerrado (Brazilian tropical savanna) and the Gran Chaco regions would "worsen due to the increase in import quotas for livestock and ethanol to Europe, perpetuating an agricultural-livestock model extractivist, supported by overgrasing, the expansion of intensive hatcheries with feedlots for livestock and monocultures dependent on pesticides and chemicals."

The coalition said it feared the potential consequences of the treaty, which would be the destruction “of the means of subsistence for very numerous peasants and small family farms, both in Europe and in South America." It also highlighted the risk of aggravating "the dependence of the South American economies on exports at low prices of raw materials." 

The historic EU-Mercosur deal, agreed in 2019 after more than 20 years of drawn-out stop-start negotiations, has stalled amid concerns over deforestation in the Amazon, with  France and Germany, in particular, publicly deploring Brazil's lack of commitment when it comes to defending the environment.

For its part, the Brazilian government of President Jair Bolsonaro denies the deal would contribute to the destruction of the Amazon, saying such criticism is led by "interest groups," who use the environment as a "pretext" to delay the ratification. 

In a bid to unblock talks, the EU proposed in January that parties sign up to joint declaration that, above all, makes commitments to sustainable development, including the reduction of deforestation in the Amazon.

The French government, however, wants more, seeking "tangible and objective guarantees" from the four Mercosur countries "regarding the environment and health standards," and not a simple declaration of intent. 

 

– TIMES/AFP

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