European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions
Together for decent work and fair pay from farm to fork

Market access for MERCOSUR: Trading away EU farming and its workers


The EU is heading for new shores in trade: South-America could become a favoured partner in the transatlantic relations, showing off with massive poultry and beef exports

Generally speaking the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the USA and Canada are in the spotlight of Europe’s interest. In the shadow of the debate and the stagnation of the negotiations, the European Commission starts working on a new free trade agreement with a majority of the countries of South-America, the MERCOSUR*.

For the European workers a lot is at stake: Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of frozen poultry and leading country in beef exports. Scientists of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission forecasted a tremendous increase of meat imports to the EU in case of a free trade agreement, resulting in a value loss of 5.8 billion Euros.

Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic struggled with concessions in the past. The free trade debate was put on ice in 2004 on grounds of fundamental differences on trade issues. In 2010 the talks were back on the political agenda.

In the absence of fair competition, EU workers may pay a high price. The development is not any better from the Latin-American perspective: competitiveness is dearly bought by land-grabbing, soil erosion, an excessive use of pesticides and the concentration of agribusiness to the detriment of small farmers.

EFFAT campaigns in the revived debate for high standards in food safety and quality. Free trade deals are not to be struck at any price, at the expense of workers’ rights and environmental protection standards. 

EFFAT will urge the European Commission to apply the highest standards in every point of the debate and to truly promote “free trade for all”. The expressed negative attitudes by many stakeholders towards TTIP and CETA have showed food safety and labour rights are non-negotiable.

by Erik Springer | EFFAT Trainee

*MERCOSUR was established in 1991 to promote free trade in South-America. Its members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela. The region comprises 365.000.000 inhabitants, constituting the fifth world’s largest economic market.

EFFAT is the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions. As a European Trade Union Federation representing 120 national trade unions from 35 European countries, EFFAT defends the interests of more than 22 million workers towards the European Institutions, European employers’ associations and transnational companies. EFFAT is a member of the ETUC and the European regional organisation of the IUF.