Austrian MPs reject South American trade deal
Austrian MPs have rejected the European Union-Mercosur trade deal, putting the fate of the agreement in doubt. Several EU member states have raised concerns about the South American trade agreement and the environment.
France and Ireland have already warned that they will reject the agreement if Brazil does not do more to control fires in the Amazon rainforest.
The agreement between the European Union and Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina is now endangered by the Austrian parliamentary rejection.
The fifth member, Venezuela, is currently suspended from Mercosur.
Representatives from four out of five of the largest parties in the Austrian parliament’s EU subcommittee voted against the pact.
The rejection might reflect MPs’ desire to boost their popularity ahead of the September 29 general election with Krone Zeitung estimating that 78 per cent of Austrian voters oppose the deal.
Jörg Leichtfried MP of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), which brought the vote, posted on Facebook: “In times of the climate crisis, having more products cross the sea that we can produce in Europe is the absolutely wrong path.”
It was “a great success for consumer, environmental and animal protection as well as human rights”, he said.
Former agriculture minister Elisabeth Köstinger of the governing Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) said it was a “clear mandate for ministers” to reject the agreement within the European Council.
Under Austrian law, the government is obliged to follow the decision of the subcommittee at the EU level. All 28 member states must agree to EU trade deals.
Only the liberal NEOS party backed the pact.
The Austrian federation of industry also supports the Mercosur agreement, warning against “populist scaremongering and free-trade myths” and insisting that it includes a commitment to the 2015 Paris climate agreement and to fight Amazon deforestation.
The trade agreement was agreed last June after nearly 10 years of negotiations had been called into question over fires in the Amazon rainforest and the far-right policies of the Brazilian populist president, Jair Bolsonaro.
The “Trump of the Tropics” was accused by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, of lying over his stance on climate change.
Macron pledged millions in aid to help protect the Amazon but Bolsonaro condemned him for treating Brazil like a “colony or no-man’s land”.
The EU is already Mercosur’s biggest trade partner, accounting last year for 20.1 per cent of EU imports of goods such as food, drink and tobacco. EU exports account for only 2.3 per cent of the EU’s total and tariffs on European exports reach as high as 35 per cent for cars and clothing.
Amazon deforestation. Picture credit: Nasa