EU free trade agreement sparked outrage in France – 'We won't agree at ANY price!'
The EU negotiated a preliminary agreement for a free trade agreement with the Mercosur bloc, comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. A key priority for the South American countries was access to the European agriculture market, where they hoped to sell meat, poultry and other products. The Mercosur deal, when fully ratified, would represent the largest trade deal struck by both the EU and Mercosur in terms of citizens involved and forms part of a wider Association Agreement between the two blocs.
Critics have drawn comparisons to an agreement with South African countries, which allowed for the introduction of oranges in European markets that contain up to three materials classified as "extremely dangerous" by the World Health Organisation.
The deal has faced opposition in France because of the possibility of European markets being opened up to South American meat, which endures less regulation than in Europe.
French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume warned last year: "We won't have an accord at any price. The story isn't finished.
"We are going to wait and see what exactly is in this text but, I would like to tell you that the whole government and I will be vigilant.
"I will not be the minister who sacrifices French agriculture at the altar of an international agreement."
The Mercosur trade deal proved so unpopular that French President Emmanuel Macron was urged last month to oppose the deal.
Some have also raised concerns over deforestation in South America.
The French government said in a statement: "The draft agreement has no provision to impose discipline on the practices of the Mercosur countries in the fight against deforestation.
“This is the major shortcoming in this agreement and this is the main reason why, as it stands, France opposes the draft agreement."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also waded in via her spokesperson, expressing “significant doubts” over the deal, given the extent of deforestation.
Parliaments in Austria, the Netherlands and the Belgian region of Wallonia have also indicated their opposition to the deal in its current form.
This isn't the first time France has raised its grievances with the trade agreement.
Emmanuel Macron and Irish President Leo Varadkar threatened to vote against a trade deal between the EU and South American trade bloc Mercosur last year unless Brazil, where wildfires have devastated the Amazon rainforest, takes its environmental obligations more seriously.
In a statement ahead of the G7 summit in Biarritz, a spokesperson for Macron said that “the president can only conclude President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka summit”, referring to assurances he gave on climate at the last G20 meeting.
Daming leaks this week suggest that environmental grievances won't go away any time soon.
A leaked version of the EU-Mercosur treaty published by Greenpeace Germany has no provisions to ensure the Paris climate agreement is enforced, leaving the door open to further deforestation in the Amazon, campaigners say.
Greenpeace trade expert Juergen Knirsch said: “Omitting sanctionable commitments to stop nature destruction and tackle the climate crisis shows how little regard this deal has for the existential challenges we face.
“The deal would accelerate the destruction of the Amazon, unleashing climate chaos and annihilating countless species."