What are the effects of trade agreements

Trade agreement against the environment and agriculture

© VisionsofAmerica.com | Joe Sohm | adobe.stock.com

(08.08.2019) In view of the dramatic worsening of the climate crisis and the collapse of biodiversity, one would think that politics would finally take countermeasures. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case in trade policy. Together, the CETA agreement with Canada and the agreement with the South American Mercosur states could more than double European beef imports. With serious consequences for the environment and local agriculture.

Last week, US President Donald Trump concluded an agreement on beef exports with the EU, which received comparatively much media attention. But the 35,000 tons of beef that Trump wants to export duty-free to the EU will have comparatively little influence on the European meat market. Because they are taken out of a WTO (World Trade Organization) quota and reserved specifically for the USA. This is at the expense of previous users of the quota, such as Argentina, but does not change the duty-free import volume. In contrast, the Mercosur and CETA trade agreements are downright catastrophic for European meat and dairy farms. Together, they will bring new quotas for nearly 145,000 tons of beef and abolish tariffs on existing South American beef export quotas. Those who approve such agreements in the European Parliament should no longer talk about “regional economic cycles” and “peasant agriculture”.

What are the effects of agreements like Mercosur?

Mercosur is the abbreviated name for the confederation of South American countries. On June 28, 2019, the EU concluded negotiations with Mercosur on its most extensive free trade agreement to date. The aim is to open up the markets for various branches of industry and the agri-food sector. The agreement eliminates tariffs of 4 billion euros per year and the overall export volume is to be increased.

Farmers' associations and environmentalists sharply criticize the Mercosur Agreement. European farmers suffer from imports from countries in which labor costs, rents and animal and environmental regulations are lower than in Europe. Many cannot keep up with the low production costs. The cattle and sugar beet farming sectors in particular will have a harder time in the EU in the future. Not to mention the impact on climate and environmental protection. With the Mercosur Agreement, the EU also concludes a deal with the right-wing extremist Brazilian President Bolsonaro, who doesn't care about climate protection, human rights or the preservation of the rainforest. If we want to achieve the agricultural turnaround towards environmentally friendly agriculture and the production of high-quality, healthy and regional food, we must not allow such trade agreements.

Climate tariffs instead of free trade

With comprehensive trade agreements like CETA and Mercosur, not only is more beef shipped across the Atlantic, but more of almost everything. Even potatoes from Canada have ended up on the European market since it tentatively went into effect. But if we want to limit climate change, international trade must not keep growing and growing at the expense of the environment.

The decisive factor here is which rules apply to world trade. We demand rules in which human rights, consumer protection and the preservation of our natural foundations of life set limits to trade.

An idea of ​​how this could be put into practice came from the international congress of the “Fridays for Future” movement in Lausanne this week: The EU should impose punitive tariffs on products from countries that do not meet the internationally agreed climate targets. This creates an incentive to adhere to the goals and secures the leeway of politics against unfair competition on the world market. Deals with the US under Trump or Brazil under Bolsonaro would then certainly no longer be possible - and that would be a good thing.

is a consultant for agricultural and trade policy. He deals with free trade agreements as well as all topics related to our agriculture.