Disagreement has been sparked between the different parts of the Spanish agri-food sector regarding the deal between the European Union and Mercosur, whose future is still plagued by uncertainty. While the food industry highlights the options it would open, the production sector is more reticent.
An opportunity for the industry
As explained by Josep Puxeu, representative of the Spanish food industry employers' association (FIAB) in the European Economic and Social Council (EESC): "for us, as manufacturers, Mercosur represents a large market". He acknowledges that there are "sensitive" productions for Spain within the framework of this agreement, such as concentrated juices, although in his opinion the key in these cases is to "seek reciprocity and transience."
"It is one of the few areas in the world where we can continue to make this type of agreements," he said. "The EU-Mercosur agreement is the only one we have in sight. It was on track, but there are some very reluctant countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, and this adds to problems in the social and environmental areas. This can't stop us from moving forward. There are some estimating the cost of the agreement, but nobody is estimating what it would mean for us not to sign it," he says.
Reticence in the agricultural sector
The Agri-food Cooperatives, on the other hand, are increasingly skeptical about the benefits for the primary sector. The director of the Technical Services and EU-International Relations of Cooperativas Agro-alimentarias in Spain, Gabriel Trenzado, believes that "it could have a negative impact" on "certain" productions. In addition to advocating reciprocity between the production models of both blocks, Trenzado highlights the "lack of transparency" in the negotiating process, since "no details have been made available about incorporation times, liberalization or requirements on sustainability."
For his part, the director of international relations of Asaja, Ignacio Lopez, says that, "apparently, the negotiations are at a standstill," and warns that within the EU, there is "reluctance to the final signature by some governments and parliaments. I'm sure what will happen in the end with the agreement." López says that although some citrus fruits and juices will be among the most negatively affected products, he sees possibilities for quality products, such as those under PDO seals.
José Luis Miguel, Technical Director of COAG, says that "we have always opposed the agreement because there is practically no advantage for the Spanish and EU agricultural sectors."
We must "take into account" that the countries that make up Mercosur are "among the largest producers in the world and produce under standards that have nothing to do with those of the EU," he says.