For a conference at the European Parliament, the GUE/NGL faction invited representatives from both areas affected by the negotiations to exchange views. It became clear that trade unions, environmental organisations and human rights NGOs from both sides of the Atlantic reject the agreement. The reasons for this are manifold, but everyone agrees: the planned EU-MERCOSUR Trade Agreement is a threat to people and nature.
Since the political agreement of EU representatives with the MERCOSUR countries Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on an Association Agreement in July 2019, the criticism of the agreement has become increasingly louder. The burning Amazon Rainforest and the massive human rights violations, in particular in Brazil, have time and again led to an outcry in the media. However, the EU Commission is not to be deterred and works on the legal drafting of the agreement, the completion of which has been scheduled for July 2020.
Massive human rights violations and damage to health
In particular, in Brazil, the persecutions and displacements of the indigenous population have increased on a massive scale since the election of the right-wing extremist Jair Bolsonaro. Mariah Silva of the “Brazilian Black Coalition” pointed out that the big landowners ruthlessly clear forests, force local people, in particular girls and women, into prostitution and forced labour and that they do not even stop short of killing them if they are met with resistance. All this for the sake of obtaining the greatest possible area for the production of meat and plants.
At the same time, the big landowners are using highly toxic pesticides. The expert of Sao Paulo University, Larissa Mies Bombardi, estimates that in the MERCOSUR area about 50 times more people a day suffer from symptoms of poisoning than the 10, who are officially registered. This “silent” death affects, above all infants. Here too, the estimated number of unknown cases is significantly higher than the official figure. These massive symptoms of poisoning are not only the result of permitted higher quantities but also of the use of chemicals, which are entirely banned in the EU because they are extremely harmful to health.
Environmental damage and intensive agriculture
The areas, where most pesticides are used, are the same where most clearings are taking place. Meanwhile, it has become clear that in 2019 over 65 % more rainforest area has been cleared than in the previous year. During the MERCOSUR negotiations, the Brazilian President Bolsonaro had still promised better protection for the rainforest. It is very obvious that exactly the opposite is happening.
Hence, intensive agriculture is the main cause of rainforest clearing and human rights violations. At the same time, there is also the threat of spreading genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are already widespread in the agricultural sector of the MERCOSUR countries to meet demand. At the same time, the trade-off food against industrial products causes the acceleration of deindustrialisation in the MERCOSUR countries. Those, who suffer the most from this, are in particular workers, as Andrés Larisgoitia of the Argentinian Confederation CTA pointed out. Economics have to be reconsidered entirely.
Paradigm change in European trade policy urgently required
Within the scope of the Green Deal for Europe, it is also necessary to consider the impacts of EU trade agreements. Outsourcing agricultural production to countries, which use pesticides and other methods banned in the EU, does not solve the problem of emissions and environmental damage, but only hides it from public view in the EU. However, imported products contain far more pesticide residues, whilst their transport results in a high level of CO2. The MERCOSUR countries also attack the EU’s precautionary principle. According to this, the indication of danger is already sufficient in the EU to impose bans. This means: the company must prove that from a scientific point of view, no threat to people or nature exists. However, the precautionary principle is not part of the Agreement and thereby undermines the existing level of protection for the EU population. Hence, it is therefore clear for the AK: European trade policy should serve both people and the environment and must not destroy these. To achieve this, rules have to be adapted and in particular, the sustainability chapters have to become enforceable.