Imports of beef into the EU expected to increase by up to 26pc under planned trade deals

Imports of beef into the EU expected to increase by up to 26pc under planned trade deals

The implementation of the 12 free trade agreements signed off by the EU would increase the value of imports beef into the block by up to 26pc, a new EU analysis has found.

The report was commissioned by the EU in the wake of criticism of the Mercosur trade which will grant improved access for South American countries to EU markets.

Under both a conservative and ambitious scenario, the report found that EU beef imports would increase by 21pc and 26pc or €512 million and €614 million respectively.

Most of the increase in imports derives from Mercosur with imports totaling €422 million.

Australia would also gain market access worth between €45 million and €121 million in additional beef exports.

In volume, this overall increase in EU beef imports amounts to an additional 85,000t to 100,000t.

The EU report estimated the impact of the additional imports would see EU producer prices would fall by about 2.4pc.

Beyond the beef sector, the report claimed the EU’s policy on trade deals has benefitted its indigenous farming and agri-food sector. It claims that EU policy will result in substantial increases in EU agri-food exports, with more limited increases in imports, creating a positive trade balance overall.

The report quotes the Commission’s Executive Vice President, Valdis Dombrovskis, as saying that the EU “has always stood for open and fair trade which has enormously benefitted our economy, including agricultural producers”.

The president of ICMSA Pat McCormack rejected the findings highlighting that the number of family farms in the EU has declined – and is still declining – year on year.

"If what he said was true, if EU Trade Policy was benefitting agricultural producers then that would be reflected in the numbers of EU citizens farming or otherwise engaged in primary food production, but those people are still leaving the sector every year.

They’re showing what they think of the EU’s attitude to EU farming by leaving the sector. That’s the reality and every scrap of data for 25 years shows that that’s the case”, said Mr McCormack.

EU chair Portugal said recently it would try to conclude a free-trade treaty between the European Union and the South American bloc Mercosur that was agreed in 2019 after two decades of talks but has still not been finalised.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said his country, which assumed the EU's six-month rotating presidency on Jan 1, needed to make progress because failure would damage the reputation of the EU, the world's largest trading bloc.

"Our credibility is at stake. It is a responsibility of Portugal to try to conclude this process and we assume this obligation," Santos Silva told an online briefing.

In a breakthrough against protectionism around the world, the EU agreed in June 2019 to create a free-trade area of 700 million people with South American trade bloc Mercosur, which is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela and Uruguay.

But France and the European Parliament have since led opposition to finalising the details of the treaty, saying Mercosur must do more to meet its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement and that Brazil is failing to combat deforestation in the Amazon.

The Brazilian government rejects criticism that it is not doing enough to stop deforestation in the Amazon, protect the environment and prevent climate change.

The impasse reflects the complexity of the EU's trade deals, which seek to go beyond market access and trade tariffs to encompass European environmental and foreign policy goals.

But Santos Silva also said that France and Ireland should not use the environment to deflect concerns about the scale of future meat imports into the EU, saying that European countries would benefit by being able to export more to Latin America.

The election of President Alberto Fernandez in Argentina in August 2019 has also raised doubts about the commitment of Mercosur, the world's fourth-largest trade bloc, to the EU deal.

Fernandez has said he wants to renegotiate parts of the agreement.

Santos Silva said trade negotiations would not be reopened.

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