A number of agricultural organizations, environmental groups and development clubs have welcomed the Dutch rejection of the European free trade agreement with South America.
A majority of the Dutch parliament yesterday, with the support of government party ChristenUnie, passed a motion against the Mercosur trade treaty. That trade deal with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay was concluded last year.
The agricultural organizations and environmental groups believe that there should be less free trade and more regulation of supply and demand. With increased market protection, farmers and arable farmers could finally get fair prices, both in South America and in the European Union, they argued. Consumer and environmental organizations have been critical, partly because of the relaxed use of agricultural poison in Brazil. Some of these drugs are banned in the European Union.
European companies could save more than € 4 billion annually on import duties, and Brazil in particular could export more meat to the EU. But it also concerns the export of orange juice, instant coffee and fruit to Europe. It is a lot of money. The mutual trade between the two trading blocks amounted to more than 100 billion euros last year.
In the House of Representatives, the Party for the Animals had tabled a motion to withdraw support for the treaty. The main argument is the lower standards in South American agriculture, unfair competition for European farmers and fraud with Brazilian meat for the European markets.
In order for the treaty to enter into force, all EU countries must ratify it. The European Parliament must also agree to this. It is already known that there are reservations in France against parts of the treaty, as well as in the center-left groups in the European Parliament. The regional parliament of Wallonia (Belgium) has already rejected the Mercosur Treaty.
The treaty has not yet been officially submitted for ratification to the governments of the EU countries. This is only possible after the complete legal document has been translated. That process is expected to start this fall, but it is already clear that the Dutch parliament does not agree with the current version. In theory, the government can also ignore the anti-Mercosur motion.
In February, the House of Representatives approved CETA, a similar trade agreement with Canada. The ChristenUnie was initially also against that treaty, but received a number of concessions from the cabinet after which the CU agreed. That CETA treaty still has to be adopted by the Senate, and Prime Minister Rutte does not have a majority there either.
Such a situation may also arise with this anti-Mercosur ruling by the House of Representatives. In any case, this puts Prime Minister Mark Rutte in a difficult position, because he is a strong advocate and advocate of as much unimpeded free trade as possible, not only in Dutch politics but also within the EU.