An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is among a coalition of EU leaders who have written to the president of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker, warning of the destabilising effect a deal Mercosur could have on the European beef sector.
The letter, seen by the Irish Farmers Journal, is also signed by French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
The letter calls on President Juncker to allow no further increases to the quotas offered for beef, poultry, sugar and ethanol in Mercosur discussions. The last beef offer made to Mercosur countries was 70,000t, although an unofficial offer of 99,000t is reportedly on the table.
The letter also asks that the quota be broken up between high-value and lower-value beef.
This, they say, would ensure “the import of high quality parts is kept to a minimum”.
The letter also states that ensuring Mercosur countries comply with the EU’s high level of food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards must also be a key part of negotiations.
While the leaders said they were in favour of balanced trade agreements, they expressed deep concerns about the effects a Mercosur deal could have on sensitive agricultural products.
Referencing climate change, the four heads of state said the EU's trade policy objectives should be coherent with its climate change responsibilities. Beef and other meat imports should “fully respect the EU's environmental norms and standards”.
In a press conference on Tuesday 18 June, European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said the quota volumes demanded by Mercosur countries were not realistic. He said he was working with Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström to try and moderate these demands.
With further high level talks scheduled for next week, Commissioner Hogan said the EU and Mercosur would have a deal by the 25 June “with the right circumstances”. He stressed that any deal agreed by officials would have to be approved by all member states.