31 July 1998

Mercosur deal attacked

A FREE trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, the South American trading group, and Chile would be suicidal, says European farmers leader, Luc Guyau.

He slammed the European Commissions plan to open negotiations (Business, July 24), saying it had ignored wishes of European governments, and the forthcoming start of the WTO negotiations.

"This step is unacceptable, both as regards the method and the principle. Such countries do not have the same space constraints as we do, nor the same environmental legislation, labour costs or high health and food safety standards. It would be suicidal for European agriculture and dupe customers."

He called on governments to ask the Council of Ministers to turn down the commissions request. "Otherwise, the reaction of European farmers will be extremely firm."

Mercosur has demanded that the EU ends its agricultural subsidies as part of any free trade pact, saying it made no sense for highly developed regions to have them.

Such barriers were unjust, since agriculture was an area where developing countries had the chance to grow more rapidly, said Brazilian president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. &#42