EUROPE
German parliament rejects renegotiation of EU-Mercosur trade deal

The German parliament on Friday (23 June) rejected a motion by left-wing opposition Die Linke (Left) to renegotiate the EU-Mercosur trade agreement after the French national assembly adopted such a call last week.

The EU-Mercosur association agreement faces criticism from environmentalists and European agricultural producers, over fears agricultural products imported from the Latin American bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay) could drive deforestation.

In Germany, however, the governing three-party coalition of Social Democrats, Greens and liberal FDP favours the deal after elections in Brazil saw far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro replaced by the left-wing former president Lula de Silva.

“After the elections [in Brazil], a window has opened for the protection of the Amazon rainforest, which we need to use,” a 2022 internal agreement by the three-party coalition reads.

Within the coalition, the pro-market FDP most strongly supports the agreement, which is also backed by the export-oriented industries of the country, like the automotive sector and machinery manufacturing.

“The Mercosur agreement promises more prosperity and growth on both sides of the Atlantic and more environmental protection,” lawmaker Carl-Julius Cronenberg of the liberal FDP (Renew) said in a parliamentary debate on Friday.

The Greens, who lead the Ministry for Economic Affairs and used to oppose free-trade agreements such as the attempted EU-US TTIP agreement, remained sceptical but are willing to support the deal if it enables closer cooperation on rainforest protection.

Lula has clearly said that “his goals are the sustainable use of the rainforest so that people can live from it without destroying the rainforest. Our task in the EU is to support him in this,” Franziska Brandtner (Greens), state secretary at the Economy and Climate Ministry, said.

The European Commission is working on a side document to the agreement, which addresses concerns over negative environmental impacts.

“We will support ratification if – and only if – the partner countries have previously entered into implementable and verifiable, legally binding environmental, social and human rights commitments and a practically enforceable supplementary agreement to protect and maintain the existing forest land has been completed,” Green lawmaker Maik Außendorf said during the debate.

Motions by opposition parties rejected

For opposition party Die Linke (European Left), this does not sufficiently address the environmental risks.

“Under the premise of fair trade, which is sustainable, does not further destroy the environment, does not destroy jobs and also gives the Latin American countries a chance for further industrialisation, […] one cannot agree to this agreement,” Left lawmaker Alexander Ulrich said.

“We want renegotiation or new negotiations,” he said, adding that “we’re not alone with that either.”

“Hundreds, including trade unions and environmental organisations, also in Latin America, see things the way we do,” he said, adding he was thankful for resistance by the French parliament.

However, a motion by his party to renegotiate the deal was rejected by the governing majority and opposition parties CDU/CSU, who called for a swift ratification.

“The EU is waiting for us”, Julia Klöckner, former agricultural minister and spokesperson for economic affairs of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, said.

“And this ‘traffic light’ flashes again with all colours,” she said about the three-party coalition referred to as ‘traffic light’, according to the party colours. “The FDP is for it, the Greens are against it, and the Chancellor lacks the ‘whammy’ to show in Brussels that Germany wants this agreement,” she said.

“The Mercosur countries are currently negotiating with many other countries,” Klöckner warned. “And I can tell you, if we’re not one of the first [to conclude a trade deal], then the standards aren’t set by us, then they’re set by the others, and we’re left in the dust,” she said, blaming the Greens for “delaying” the agreement.

Lack of commitment by Commission chief?

But for Brandtner, this criticism falls short.

“Let’s be clear: the Mercosur agreement has been negotiated for 20 years, 16 of those years under the Chancellorship of [CDU-chancellor Angela] Merkel. And in those 16 years, you obviously didn’t get this deal done,” she told CDU/CSU representatives.

“And you haven’t managed to get any trade deal in the last few years of your government either,” she added.

FDP lawmaker Reinhard Houben blamed Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, a member of CDU, for lack of effort.

“Why don’t you start where you can have an influence?” he asked CDU lawmakers during the debate. “Ms. von der Leyen is the leader of Europe”.

“Where is Ms. von der Leye’s commitment to this agreement? I haven’t noticed that in the past few months,” he added.

Source: Euractiv.com

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