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Brussels Times | 6 February 2020
Wallonia votes against EU trade pact with Mercosur countries
by Alan Hope
The Walloon parliament has voted unanimously in favour of a motion critical of the trade pact agreed between the European Union and the Mercosur countries of South America – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
The original objection took the form of a resolution, proposed by cdH, which then became a motion written by the majority PS-MR-Ecolo parties. The vote took place yesterday.
The objections to the pact include how it allows greater access to EU markets for South American agricultural goods, in return for European access for goods and services. In return for their cutting tariffs on cars and machinery, Europe is allowing more exports of chicken, beef and sugar – where the four countries already have a sizeable market share.
The Walloon motion stresses the dangers of the pact to the climate, to consumer health and safety and to the existence of small-scale and sustainable agriculture. According to opponents, the Mercosur countries “do not live up to the social, sanitary and environmental criteria in force in Europe.”
Meanwhile in Flanders, the Boerenbond farmers’ union last June issued a report which also opposed the pact. “It is the large industrial companies from the Mercosur that will supply the exports coming to Europe, where they will compete with the more family-based European producers. The small local producer in the Mercosur will not get much from this agreement.”
On the other side, four employers’ organisations last month issued a call for the government to approve the Mercosur agreement. “Belgium’s GDP is more than 85% dependent on foreign trade,” the group pointed out. “More than 37,000 elgian jobs are dependent on exports to the Mercosur countries.”
The Walloon parliament has now called on the federal government to produce an impact study by the end of July, showing the effects of the pact on the region. The parliament’s own conclusions will be communicated to the federal government and to the EU.