May 19. 2024. 12:41

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Austrian agriculture minister says ‘no’ to Mercosur deal amid industry pressure


Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig said he opposes the EU-Mercosur trade agreement during the Agriculture Council in Brussels on Monday despite alleged industry pressure on the minister in charge of giving Austria’s final decision.

At the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels on Monday, Totschnig made his opposition to the deal known – echoing the National Council’s rejection of the deal in 2019.

“There are still no meaningful answers from the EU Commission on import controls or protective measures against distortions of competition. There is also a lack of complete EU origin labelling,” said Totschnig, making it clear that Austria rejects the deal.

“Restricting agriculture in Europe through ever higher standards” while “at the same time importing beef and sugar from overseas at lower standards” does not work, he added.

Instead of opening the EU market to food imports, the Commission “should focus on a strong agriculture, a functioning internal market and food security,” he added.

The minister’s words also received approval from Austrian Green MEP and co-chair of the European Green Party Thomas Waitz, who criticised the Mercosur agreement for not sufficiently protecting the Amazon rainforest or the rights of indigenous people.

Austria’s decision is in the hands of Economy Minister Martin Kocher, whom Waitz says is “already under pressure from the car industry and economic liberals”.

Austria should be open to new partners and chances “in order not to fall further behind others” as it is becoming “increasingly isolated in its undifferentiated blockade attitude within the European Union”, Secretary General of the Federation of Austrian Industries Christoph Neumayer said.

(Chiara Swaton | EURACTIV.de)