Austria's Agriculture Minister Totschnig against Mercosur Agreement

PeoplePoliticians ♦ Published: February 6, 2023; 22:39 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria's Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig is against ratification of the Mercosur trade agreement. In his opinion, the agreement with South America would put domestic farm families and supplies under pressure.

Austria's Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig (ÖVP) has spoken out against ratification of the Mercosur trade agreement. / Picture: © BML/Gruber

The Mercosur agreement is a free trade agreement that would create the largest free trade area in the world, as reported, and is driven primarily by the business. The Mercosur free trade area includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. The EU and the South American Mercosur countries had reached an agreement in principle for a trade treaty before 2019.

The EU now hopes to sign by July, but Austria's own Agriculture Minister Norbert Totschnig (ÖVP) now opposes the deal. For Toschnig, proof of the problematic nature of the agreement is the fact that negotiations between the EU and the Mercosur states to establish a free trade zone have been ongoing since 1999. "The long negotiations show how controversial the agreement is," said the Agriculture Ministry under Totschnig.

"Mercosur is an old-school agreement, without a comprehensive sustainability chapter," the politician justified his position, according to ORF. For Totschnig, the Mercosur agreement has too low standards. According to Totschnig, "the focus should be on a strong internal market and security of supply. If we want to follow a sustainable path in agriculture in Europe, this must also be reflected in trade agreements."

Agriculture Minister Totschnig sees the criticism of the current form of the agreement as justified, because "while Europe is constantly raising climate, animal welfare and social standards, these play a subordinate role in South America.

Totschnig speaks out clearly against the Mercosur agreement: "This is my position and this also corresponds to the government program. Our Austrian commitment is paying off, and at the same time, there is a broad alliance in this country against such an agreement. In complete contrast, in Germany, the red-green-yellow government is in favor of the agreement." The EU Commission is now trying to push the pact through the back door - with the help of legal quibbles. In this way, it wants to circumvent the no votes of individual member states such as Austria.

The pact with South America is like a Trojan horse, he said. "Mercosur may look advantageous at first glance, but is not compatible with the agreed EU climate and sustainability targets. We will continue to defend our position and our criticisms with full force in Brussels," Totschnig concluded.

Opponents and supporters of the agreement

The Minister of Agriculture can count on the support of a large number of opponents of the free trade agreement because, for Austria, which tends to be conservative, this is about protectionism and small-scale politics.

Farmers' Union President Georg Strasser (ÖVP) stated, "We continue to clearly oppose Mercosur - as agreed in the government program. Quality and production standards must also apply to imports. A split of the agreement would mean the import of cheap food from overseas through the back door," the politician said according to ORF.

But Greenpeace and other progressive forces are also against the free trade agreement, primarily because of the environmental standards, but also social standards.

However, the ÖVP politician does not find support in the Industrial Association (IV) and the political party, the NEOS. Both have come out strongly in favor of an agreement in their respective mailings. So has the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, as reported.

The trade pact, contrary to what some agricultural and labor representatives have claimed, offers a unique opportunity through new jobs and greater competitiveness, the Industrialists' Association said.



Industrialists' Association