Time is ticking to stop the EU-Mercosur trade deal

The EU Mercosur trade agreement will further outsource European demand for beef to South America, pouring fuel on a rainforest already up in flames. Intensive agricultural production to clear the land has already accounted for 80% of global deforestation. There is no capacity to enforce sustainability standards in the deal, and the lack of mechanisms to trace the origin of commodities will worsen deforestation. A new report has warned that deforestation will increase by at least 25 per cent per annum if the agreement is passed, the yearly equivalent to the size of the Netherlands.

Research presented to the French government highlights the fact that the agreement is set to have a minimal impact on the real income of European citizens. The main benefits will be confined to a short-term profit for a few big corporations. This will be outweighed by the social and environmental damage with a trade deal directly undermining the European Green New Deal and failing to meet the Paris Agreement. The deal will exacerbate carbon emissions at a time when the economy urgently needs decarbonising. For the Commission to remain steadfast in supporting this deal, whilst simultaneously tabling an increase of the EU’s 2030 climate target (from 40% below 1990 levels to at least 55%), is entirely contradictory.

Not only will the EU Mercosur agreement have a detrimental impact for the climate, but it condones and exacerbates the human rights abuses of Bolsanaro’s government, including the violence on indigenous communities, minorities, and civil society. The deal does not include protection of local communities, and according to research, overlooks international frameworks, such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), in the drafting of the agreement.

A test for democracies

In an era of increased nationalism and populism, there is a necessity for vibrant democracies to deal with the climate crisis. The European Union has a historical responsibility to tackle climate change and should be leading the way in protecting the living world. Instead, this trade deal undermines the EU’s credibility, setting a precedence for other countries to ignore their obligations.

Three out of four Europeans are opposed to the agreement if it contributes to deforestation and damage of the environment, according to a YouGov survey published last week. If the EU presses ahead, it would be unsupported by most of its citizens.

There is still cause for hope, however. This year has proved that unexpected and seismic shifts can take place. Recent protests have shown that public opposition is strong, planting seeds of doubt in the mind of Angela Merkel. After meeting with activists in August she expressed significant concerns over the deal. Austria, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Belgian region of Wallonia have also indicated they oppose the deal in its current form. As the pact needs to be approved all 27 EU member states, its ratification is by no means certain. An inquiry by the EU is ongoing to assess why the Commission did not finalize an updated sustainability impact assessment prior to concluding the agreement. The findings could be decisive.

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