Angry peasants | economy

While the industry celebrates the EU-Mercosur pact, farmers fear unfair competition.

The agreement on a free trade agreement between the EU and the South American Confederation of Mercosur has met with mixed reactions. While European farmers and Greens have sharply criticized the agreement, the professional associations and the German Federal Minister for the Economy, Peter Altmaier (CDU), have spoken of a breakthrough and a change. a "strong signal against protectionism".

German, French and other EU farmers are worried about South America because of unfair competition. Unequal requirements in terms of environmental and climate protection, antibiotic use and crop protection would lead to serious distortions of competition, warned the president of the association of German farmers, Joachim Rukwied. Beef, poultry and sugar producers are particularly affected.

"The agreement will expose European farmers to unfair competition", fears Christiane Lambert, president of the French farmers' union FNSEA. The signature of the EU under such a contract was therefore "unacceptable".

The European Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, promised compensation for European farmers. With regard to distortions of competition, one billion euros could be made available, said the Irishman. EU agriculture is already heavily dependent on subsidies.

"What a breakthrough and what a success for us all," said Altmaier, Minister of Economic Affairs. The agreement will generate more wealth and jobs and help stabilize global markets. Eric Schweitzer, president of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stressed the importance of the agreement for the German economy. Germany will in particular benefit from mutually enhanced access to the market in sectors such as mechanical engineering and the automotive and food industry, Schweitzer said.

Threat of human rights

Industry associations such as the Federal Association of Wholesalers and the German Association of Mechanical Engineers and Mechanics have spoken of an "exclamation point against generalized protectionism".

Above all, the Greens fear negative consequences for climate protection and the human rights situation in South America. The EU exchanges "better access of cars to the market against important imports of beef, poultry, sugar and other agricultural products", said spokeswoman for the parliamentary group Greens, Katharina Dröge. This meant new pastures and new areas and would result in "increased deforestation in the Amazon region".

The deforestation of the tropical rainforest under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has already increased by more than 50% – with serious consequences "for climate protection, biodiversity in the Amazon region and the indigenous population," warned Dröge. The decision was also "a slap in the face of civil society in Brazil", which opposes the retaliation of the right-wing president Bolsonaro.

Martin Häusling, spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament in charge of agricultural policy, spoke of a "real disaster for the environment, climate and human rights". The Green politician announced that his party would do everything possible to prevent the decision of the "long-abandoned European Commission" in the European Parliament.

The EU and the South American economic bloc, Mercosur, had agreed Friday night to a comprehensive agreement to form the largest free trade area in the world. The agreement currently being negotiated by the European Commission still needs to be approved by the 28 Member States and then by the European Parliament.