European Union Agriculture ministers will be meeting this week in Luxembourg to discuss the current trade negotiations with Mercosur, according to European Commission sources.
Ireland has formally requested the EC to report to the Agriculture Council on the latest round of EU/Mercosur talks in the framework of ongoing negotiations that are scheduled to continue at the beginning of May in Asuncion, Paraguay the country that currently holds the rotating Mercosur chair.
The previous round of talks took place in Brussels in March and respond to an agreement reached a year ago during the EU/Latin American leaders’ summit held in Madrid to resume the frozen (since 2004) cooperation and trade negotiations.
Agriculture remains one of the most controversial issues of the EC/Mercosur discussions given the South American group’s farm productivity which European farmers see as a threat to their survival if they are given greater market access.
France and Ireland and to a certain extent Spain lead a group of almost ten EU nations that are dissatisfied with the talks and demand South American farmers comply with similar environmental and health restrictions as their equals in Europe.
Furthermore the European Parliament has come out in support of farmers and has warned that it wants to closely monitor trade talks and ensure that the well being of European farmers is not threatened.
Ireland as a leading producer of beef is particularly concerned with productivity in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and is demanding limited access for Mercosur beef in the event of an agreement being reached.
However Alfonso Diez Torres, head of the EU delegation in Argentina in recent reports from Buenos Aires downplayed those fears pointing out that EU imports of wine were greater than those of beef.
“Sometimes the issue is dramatized and focused on an only item without taking into account that meat exports from Argentina to the EU totalled 800 million Euros while sales of wine were over a billion Euros”, said Diez Torres in an interview with one of Buenos Aires leading financial newspapers, El Cronista. Comercial.
Diez Torres also underlined that the “simplistic attitude and I’m not judging intentionality,” is to label the EU as “protectionist” ignoring the fact that “we are the main importers of food in the world”.
He added that the latest statistics show that Mercosur sales to the EU expanded at a far greater rate than EU food imports.