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The negotiations on the EU-Mercosur agreement are said to have been interrupted at the request of France.

Mathilde Dupré, 30 January 2024

[English] [français]

According to Politico, France reportedly declared on Monday that the European Commission had stopped negotiating the trade agreement with Mercosur countries at its request.

The information remains to be confirmed by the European Commission.

Citing the mobilization of the agricultural sector and the crisis in the food system, the government is said to have argued that it would be impossible to conclude negotiations in this context. Brussels is reported to have ordered an end to ongoing negotiation sessions in Brazil and the organization of a political visit by the Commissioner for Trade.

For the Veblen Institute, which has been advocating for years (1) against the ratification of this outdated agreement incompatible with the goals of the European Green Deal, the halt in negotiations – if officially confirmed – would be excellent news (2). By shelving the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur countries, it would finally be possible to consider new forms of partnership based on the implementation of environmental commitments and the promotion of human rights in both regions.

But nothing is less certain, as the European Commission indicates that major issues remain to be resolved, but that discussions are continuing at a technical level. Especially since a political agreement has just been reached on the liberalisation of public procurement.

In addition, diplomats in Brasilia retort that negotiations are being conducted not with France but with the EU, and that they expect them to continue over the coming weeks.

Notes :

(1) The Veblen Institute has published three reports on the trade agreement project:

The Veblen Institute, along with other organizations,lodged a complaintwith the EU Ombudsman regarding the deficiencies in the sustainability impact assessment of the EU-Mercosur agreement. In March 2021, after an investigation, the Ombudsman concluded a case of maladministration.

The Veblen Institute was interviewed in 2019 by the panel of experts appointed by the French government to examine the health and environmental impacts of the EU-Mercosur agreement, which issued its conclusions in September 2020.

The Veblen Institute collaborated with European and French parliamentarians to closely monitor the negotiations. Numerous questions were posed to the government and the Commission, an amendment against the ratification of the agreement as it stood was adopted by the European Parliament in October 2021, and two resolutions were passed in 2023 and 2024 in the French National Assembly and the Senate.

(2) In 2019, France established three clear red lines for a potential ratification of the EU/Mercosur Agreement:

  • That the public policies of Mercosur countries align with their commitments under the Paris Agreement.
  • That the agreement does not lead to an increase in imported deforestation within the EU.
  • That agricultural and agri-food products benefiting from preferential access to the EU market adhere to EU health and environmental standards.

However, in recent months, a rewriting of these three conditions was observed, indicating some weakening. During an appearance before the National Assembly on June 21, the Secretary of State for Development, Francophonie, and International Partnerships listed the following conditions, later confirmed by the Minister of Commerce:

  • The Paris Agreement becomes an essential element of the trade agreement.
  • The agreement aligns with the Commission’s new approach to sustainability chapters (possibility of imposing sanctions for non-compliance).
  • An ambitious work program for mirror measures is established in the EU parallel to the ratification of the agreement.

This shift raised concerns about a retreat from the French government’s position.

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