In a renewed effort to negotiate with South America's Mercosur bloc, France has decided to propose a change in the European Commission’s mandate that will include food safety provisions, the European country's envoy to Brazil said on Monday.
French ambassador Michel Miraillet cited one of the recent issues that raised concerns in the European food industry, that of food inspectors being bribed by meatpackers in Brazil to overlook sanitary practices.
Miraillet said France expected "four or five" EU countries to back its plan to propose updating the Commission’s negotiating authority.
“We don’t know what will happen, but this is one proposal that will be made. The mandate dates from 1999 and needs to be modified,” the diplomat told the Brazilian reporters, according to Reuters.
The government of President Emmanuel Macron is also under pressure from the French farmers to avoid competition from cheaper Mercosur products, especially meat and ethanol.
At one such farmers and food producers conference last week, Macron said he will not rush to make a decision on the trade negotiations that have been in process for nearly 18 years.
A European diplomat on conditions of anonymity said France's request was a delaying tactic.
Brazil’s foreign ministry declined to comment on the ambassador’s comments. However, a Brazilian diplomat, who also requested anonymity, said the French proposal was an attempt to "intimidate" Mercosur, whose members, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay aim to seek a broader market access for food exports to the European Union, EU.
Mercosur member countries want the EU to make a better offer if it wishes to gain access to the South American beef and ethanol market and seal a trade deal by the end of the year.
Europe has offered to reduced import duties on at least 70,000 tonnes of beef and 600,000 tonnes of ethanol to enter the EU, but the Brazilian and Argentinian negotiators described the offer as "disappointing."
The European Commission negotiates on behalf of all the EU countries will need to strike a fine balance to keep the interests of both sides of the trade deal in mind but also to see the interests of EU countries such as France and Ireland that are concerned that a large influx of agricultural imports from Mercosur might harm the local production.