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Austria rejects free trade agreement with South-America

The deforestation in the Amazon forest. Credit: WWF Brazil/Michael Dantas

The Austrian government has sent an open letter to the Portuguese EU Presidency protesting against its plan to complete the ratification of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement in the coming months as it contradicts the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement.

Mercosur is an economic and political bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. EU concluded negotiations with them in June 2019 and the text is currently subject to a legal review by the European Commission.

The  letter, dated 4 March, was sent by the Austrian Vice-Chancellor  Werner Kogler to Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. It argues that the agreement is at odds with EU efforts to address the economic crisis in a way that is compatible with environmental and climate ambitions and commitments.

“The extensive forest fires in the Amazon region, also known as the lungs of the earth, in combination with an increase of intensive agro-industrial mode of agricultural production in the Mercosur countries, will exacerbate global warming,” the letter warns. The Austrian parliament has passed unanimously binding resolutions to this effect.

On Thursday (11 March), the representatives of EU member states will meet to discuss a possible additional protocol on deforestation and climate. What worries Austria, according to the letter, is that the Portuguese Presidency might try to circumvent the opinion against the agreement in Austria and other EU member states.

“The EU-Mercosur agreement is tantamount to the EU giving up any pretences of fighting against climate change,” commented MEP Yannick Jadot, Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur in the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament.

“This agreement will massively contribute to deforestation, the globalisation of junk food, animal suffering and the disappearance of farmers in Latin America and Europe. European farmers will have to compete with an intensive agricultural model in the Mercosur countries where many pesticides banned in the EU are allowed.”

The Brussels Times

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