EU crisis as Macron thwarted Brussels' trade deal after 'war of words'

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The EU struck a huge trade deal with the Mercosur group of South American nations – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – in 2019. Talks for the agreement have exceeded 20 years, and while a preliminary agreement is in place, formal ratification of the accord remains elusive. This is because major concerns over the environment and the impact of the deal on European farmers persist. French President Emmanuel Macron intervened in 2019 to say he will oppose the deal after a “war of words” with controversial Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

Mr Macron said he will oppose a trade deal “as it is” between the EU and South America’s Mercosur bloc because Brazil failed to meet its commitments to contain deforestation in the Amazon.

An Elysee official added: “The President can only conclude President Bolsonaro lied to him at the Osaka summit.

“France will oppose the Mercosur deal as it is.”

Mr Macron also tweeted: “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest – the lungs which produces 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis.”

Analysing France’s opposition to the deal at the time, France24 reporter Christopher Moore said

He said: “That war of words started when Emmanuel Macron tweeted ‘our house is burning’ and urged that the issue in South America take centre stage.

“Bolsonaro responded by saying Macron was overstating the problem, that he was using this for personal and political gain and accusing him of what he called a ‘colonial mindset’.

“Macron then announced France would seek to block this agreement between the EU and South American nations.”

Even in recent weeks, opposition to the Mercosur agreement has been rife.

Last month, Jurgen Knirsch from Greenpeace told EU Observer: “The EU-Mercosur deal is an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

“National governments must now reject this deal, or else they make themselves complicit in accelerating the destruction of the Amazon and other vital ecosystems.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this month expressed “significant doubts” over the deal, given the extent of deforestation, her spokesman said.

Parliaments in Austria, the Netherlands and the Belgian region of Wallonia have also indicated their opposition to the deal in its current form.

The Mercosur deal, if finalised, would represent the largest trade deal struck by both the EU and Mercosur in terms of citizens involved and forms part of a wider association agreement between the two blocs, currently under negotiation.

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It is potentially worth billions, but farmers in Ireland and France are especially concerned over being undercut by South American goods.

In September 2019, a poll revealed many in Europe opposed the Mercosur deal.

SumOfUs, a global non-profit advocacy organisation and online community that campaigns to hold corporations accountable on issues such as climate, commissioned a poll which was conducted by YouGov.

It asked European consumers what they thought of the potential trade deal.

In September 2019, a poll revealed many in Europe opposed the Mercosur deal.

SumOfUs, a global non-profit advocacy organisation and online community that campaigns to hold corporations accountable on issues such as climate, commissioned a poll which was conducted by YouGov.

It asked European consumers what they thought of the potential trade deal.

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The vast majority of people in France, Spain, Germany and others said they did not want the EU to enact the agreement.

In France, 89 percent expressed opposition, with 79 percent doing the same in Germany and 78 percent in Spain.

Overall, 82 percent of the respondents were against the deal.

David Norton, campaigns coordinator at SumOfus, said: “This poll proves that the vast majority of Europeans feel the same way: people don’t want cheaper beef at the cost of deforestation.

“The results of this poll should further encourage these governments to reject this trade deal that would be disastrous for people and the planet.”

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