Estonia, 12 other EU states want food sector exceptions in free trade deal with Mercosur


Bananas imported from Ecuador, a member of South American sub-regional bloc Mercosur. (Liis Treimann/Postimees/Scanpix)

Estonia and 12 partner nations have issued a joint appeal to refrain from allowing too great quantities of agricultural and food products to be brought into the EU by subregional South American bloc Mercosur as part of a planned free trade agreement.

Citing the fact that Mercosur (“Mercado Común del Sur”, or Southern Common Market) countries are world leaders in agricultural markets and their agricultural and food sectors are highly competitive, the 13 countries, which include Austria, Cyprus, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia, in addition to Estonia, “…oppose the presence of proposals of quotas on sensitive products in the European offer that will be passed on to Mercosur in the coming months and wish to see the ministers of agriculture examine this important subject before any decision is taken concerning a future exchange of tariff offer.”

The signees found that the European agricultural sector was already facing an agricultural crisis, countermeasures to which had failed to alleviate the situation, and showed concern that, “In this context, an offer to Mercosur containing quotas on sensitive products would likely be seen as a provocation by the European agricultural sector and could have a ripple effect on all ongoing trade negotiations, and in particular the ongoing negotiation with the United States.”

Speaking to BNS, Meeli Lindsaar, an advisor at the Trade and Agro-Food Department at the Ministry of Rural Affairs, explained that Estonia has continued to support free trade treaties that are being concluded between the EU and third countries, including the free trade treaty with Mercosur. She went on to explain, however, that while Estonia also supported the approach that negotiations should be kept as broad as possible, the specific nature of each individual sector nevertheless had to be kept in mind.

“According to surveys, exports by the EU to Mercosur will grow by an estimated half, and import by an estimated 40 percent,” said Lindsaar. “The sectors to benefit the most in the EU would be the manufacturing and service sectors, which will increase their exports substantially.” The advisor added that the loser in the Mercosur agreement would be the EU’s agricultural sector, as imports from Mercosur countries would outstrip exports from the EU.

So far, Estonia has fully supported the preparation and signing of a free trade agreement between the EU and countries belonging to Mercosur. The Baltic nation saw the EU as carrying a strong position in negotiations, which meant that it was unlikely to make any concessions on important issues.

Mercosur’s full members consist of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, Brazil, and Bolivia, the last of which is still in the process of joining the bloc; partner states include Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Suriname, and Peru. The South American bloc is the fourth largest free trade association globally after the EU itself, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

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