Photo credits: Alex E. Proimos/Flickr
The EU and Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) are still negotiating their long-awaited trade agreement. How close they are to conclude a deal continues to be uncertain. A new round should take place in Montevideo in September, and as usual, many actors are presenting it as the final round where all solutions will be found, while others are more skeptical. From the update that was given to civil society on Thursday by EU Chief negotiator Sandra Gallina, it seems the main obstacles are still unsolved (dairy and dairy products, car and car parts, geographical indications, maritime services). Beef was not mentioned directly but the topic did not seem closed either. When asked about a technical detail on the planned tariff-rate quota for the beef sector, the negotiator commented that being such a politically sensitive topic, beef was handled directly at political level, by Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan.
In a recent interview with the AFP, Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes has voiced his frustration with the EU and declared that they “expect a little more, some movement beyond what the European Union has offered up to now, especially in the agricultural goods sector, market access.” The Minister criticised the tariff rate quota offered by the EU on beef, both the volume granted by Brussels but also the refusal to allow for the meat under the quota to enter completely duty free.
Last June, during an in camera meeting, EU Chief negotiator Sandra Gallina had explained to Members of the European Parliament that Mercosur countries had started to withdraw some commitments they had made on animal welfare. This information is now confirmed by the latest drafts of the negotiating documents published by Bilaterals.org. The draft chapter on “Dialogues” – which contains the provisions on animal welfare cooperation – reveals a weakened text.
The current provisions do not envisage anymore an objective of regulatory alignment in animal welfare standards, which even though it was a soft commitment, could have been welcomed as a sign that both the EU and Mercosur were attaching importance to the topic. This could have boded well for the cooperation that would have taken place in the context of the implementation of the deal. All that remains is the recognition that animals are sentient beings, a commitment to exchange information, expertise and experiences on a wide range of topics (breeding, holding, handling, transportation and slaughter), and to collaborate on research and in international fora. This is weaker than what was concluded with Mexico in April 2018.
Questioned on the topic during the update on the negotiations that was given to civil society this Thursday, the EU negotiator recognized that the current provisions on animal welfare were not as high as the EU could have hoped for. However, she also confirmed the discussions on the topic were not entirely closed.
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade & Animal Welfare Project leader | +32 (0)2 740 08 96 | firstname.lastname@example.org