Mercosur, Ceta: Does the European Union sacrifice its ecological ambitions in favor of free trade?

After twenty years of negotiations, the European Union and five South American countries reached an agreement on June 28 on a vast free trade treaty involving nearly 780 million consumers. Strongly denounced by environmental protection associations as well as by European farmers, this treaty is the subject of considerable controversy in the EU member states. By the end of the month, the French Parliament will be asked for the final adoption of CETA, a free trade agreement concluded between Canada and the EU at the end of 2016. Provisionally implemented since 2017 throughout the EU, Parliament will have to decide on the very controversial issue of arbitration courts.

EU/ Mercosur: a controversial treaty

Mandated by the 28 EU Member States, the European Commission concluded on 28 June a long-awaited free trade agreement with five South American MERCOSUR members (Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay Venezuela today suspended). Long awaited, the conclusion of this agreement owes a great deal to the Junker Commission’s desire to complete its mandate on an additional free trade agreement allowing European companies to obtain new commercial opportunities.

However, this agreement, which has been negotiated for 20 years, worries European environmental associations and breeders. The possibility for South American countries to export with very small trade barriers on beef to Europe remains one of the most controversial aspects of the treaty. The European beef industry is worried about competing with meat produced at low cost under much less restrictive health and environmental conditions than in the EU. However, the EU wants health and environmental standards to be “harmonized” in the medium term. Can we hope for a harmonization from the top of these standards with Brazil, today led by a Jair Bolsonaro known for his climate-skeptical positions and his desire to continue the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest? Nothing is less certain, although the European Commission presents this treaty as an opportunity to enforce the principles contained in the Paris Agreement on Climate.
To be definitively ratified, the Ue / Mercosur agreement will have to be approved by the parliaments of the Mercosur countries, the European Parliament and all the legislative chambers of the European Union.

The mobilization of civil society still intact against CETA

On Tuesday, July 2, 72 civil society associations (unions, NGOs, farmers’ federations) issued an open letter to the French parliamentarians asking them “solemnly not to ratify the CETA”. The final ratification of the CETA should, however, except in the face of surprise, be enacted by Parliament. The most sensitive issue is the one  of arbitration tribunals that allows an enterprise to sue a State before an exceptional arbitral tribunal if it considers that a political decision has violated the rules of the Treaty and harmed its economic interests, Any mistake is forbidden for the parliamentarians on that question. The adoption of CETA, although controversial, should take place thanks to the voices of the majority MPs. It will be made despite the warnings of Nicolas Hulot, who said in the daily newspaper” Le Monde”, dated July 1 “free trade is at the root of all environmental issues.”