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German, French leaders clash over Mercosur deal – POLITICO

German, French leaders clash over Mercosur deal – POLITICO

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“I believe that we all agree that we need such agreements because they play a major geostrategic role,” the chancellor said.

The deal, which has been under negotiation for almost 25 years, would open the highly protectionist Mercosur market to European exports such as cars and machinery — thus creating a much-needed sales market for Germany’s export-oriented economy, which is currently in a recession. At the same time it would allow the South Americans to export more products like beef and wine to Europe, which has led to strong resistance from French farmers.

In a broadside against the familiar French contention that the EU must reinforce its strategic position in the world, Scholz argued it was “not acceptable” to complain that Europe is losing influence to countries like China, while not seeking “ways to improve the economic growth prospects of our continent through good forms of cooperation, including in economic relations.”

Attal, whose country is experiencing vitriolic agricultural protests against the Mercosur deal in particular, argued the “conditions” for concluding the agreement didn’t yet exist.

The prime minister added the agreement would foster “unfair competition” by South American farmers with European producers by allowing the former to use agricultural products and techniques forbidden in Europe.

In consequence, Attal insisted, the trade deal must include “mirror clauses” to ensure Mercosur exporters respect the same standards as European farmers.

He also questioned whether the deal sufficiently respected the environmental targets of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, saying France had “an extremely firm position” on both issues.

Mercosur officials have expressed hope the agreement can be concluded at month’s end, but the French opposition has put such plans in doubt.

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