What is at stake for animals & the environment in the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement?

29 Sep 2020
On Tuesday 29 September, the Animal Welfare Intergroup held a webinar on “What is at stake for animals and the environment in the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement?”.

Last year in June, the EU and Mercosur countries concluded an unprecedented Free Trade Agreement (FTA) whose negotiations lasted for 20 years. Its ratification process will start soon and will also involve the European Parliament.

The EU-Mercosur agreement as it stands now raises major concerns for the welfare of people, animals and the planet. This was also recently highlighted in a Eurogroup for Animals report.

If ratified, the agreement will generate, further stimulate and fuel the intensification of animal agriculture in export-oriented sectors in both the EU (dairy and pig meat) and Mercosur countries (beef and chicken meat). In addition to being intrinsically detrimental to animal welfare, the intensification of animal agriculture is seriously contributing to three key challenges the planet is facing: the climate crisis, zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance.

Proffesor Olivier De Schutter, a co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems and UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, presented the numerous concerns over the ratification of the agreement. He specifically stressed that the free trade agreement, in its current state, is not compatible with the EU’s Green Deal which aims to improve people's well-being and secure a healthy planet for generations to come, nor with the Paris Agreement. It will also impact public health and human rights.

Next spoke Gabriel Casnati, Fiscal Justice and Trade Coordinator at Public Services International, Regional Office Brazil. In his presentation he highlighted that the ratification of the  agreement would contribute to legitimating the Brazilian Government’s pro-deforestation policies to gain land for feed crop and pasture. This not only has disastrous consequences for the climate but it also threatens many wildlife species with extinction. Signing the agreement would make the EU responsible for an ecocide. He also encouraged MEPs to enter in discussion with opposition leaders in Brazil so as to involve them more in the international debate and to raise awareness on this topic among Parliamentarians.

Anna Deparnay-Grunenberg MEP (Greens/EFA, DE), a member of the EP Delegation for relations with the Mercosur countries explained then the European Parliament’s involvement in the ratification process. In her presentation, the MEP stressed on the high pressure cheap meat will bring to European farmers and raised awareness on the treatment of animals, how we treat animals is a yardstick of our humanity and our civilization' she expressed. 

Tiziana Beghin MEP, a member of the EP Committee on International Trade, reiterated the concerns previously raised, and highlighted that across Europe there are increasing voices, also at Government level, against the ratification of the FTA as it stands now.

After a lively debate Anja Hazekamp, President of the Animal Welfare Intergroupproposed some key asks:

·       To review the market access offer to further limit the volume granted in tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for animal-based products, especially for bovine and chicken meat.

·       To include animal welfare conditions for all trade preferences granted to animal products.

·       To strengthen the TSD chapter and its enforcement mechanisms. This could be done by establishing a proper monitoring mechanism to assess the impact of the implementation of the trade deal on animals, environment and people, and by introducing material penalties in case of violation of these provisions.

·       To include a comprehensive cooperation mechanism on animal welfare, covering not only farm animals but also animals used in science and wildlife, with the clear objective to improve the protection and welfare of animals by enacting and implementing stronger legislation.

·       To review the chapter on technical barriers to trade in oreder to avoid any obstacle to the future imposition of a method-of-production label on imported products.

·       To introduce a provision in the chapter on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures protecting the right of the EU to rely on the precautionary principle in the field of food safety.

It was suggested that in the absence of such modifications, MEPs should reject the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement when it comes to the European Parliament.

Find the agenda here.

The video recording is available here 

Stay tuned for the next Intergroup meeting to take place in October! Follow all the updates on our Website and Twitter.