Greenpeace Netherlands leaks EU-Mercosur trade papers

Increase in meat and soy trade would drive deforestation

Amsterdam/Brussels, 6 December 2017 – Greenpeace Netherlands has released 171 pages of previously undisclosed documents from secret talks for an EU-Mercosur trade agreement.

The parties to the agreement – Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and the EU – hope to announce a political agreement at a new round of talks taking place this week.

The leaks expose the failure of the European Commission and European governments to stick to commitments on transparency, said Greenpeace. NGOs warn that the EU-Mercosur trade deal is a major threat for the climate and the preservation of natural habitats in South America, including the Amazon and Cerrado regions in Brazil.

EU negotiators have offered Mercosur countries a 78,000-tonne increase in beef imports. Observers expect this offer to increase to 100,000 to 130,000 tonnes. Mercosur countries currently export about 200,000 tonnes of beef to the EU. According to media reports, the EU is in return seeking access for car exports.

Greenpeace trade campaigner Kees Kodde said: “Backroom trade talks undermine democracy and public trust in politicians. This trade deal in particular is overshadowed by serious corruption allegations in Brazil, the murders of environmental activists and indigenous leaders, and a major threat to the environment: Mercosur countries want to boost meat exports to Europe, which would push cattle farming into pristine habitats in the Amazon and the Cerrado regions in Brazil and the Chaco in Argentina.”

The biggest export from Mercosur countries to the EU is soy, representing 22 per cent in export value. 94 per cent of the EU’s soybean meal imports comes from these countries. Researchers expect imports of soy from Mercosur countries to increase as a result of the trade deal.

The impact of cattle ranching in the Amazon forest and related ecosystems is well documented. Cattle is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon, with 65% of deforested areas occupied by animal pastures (pdf). Brazil’s Amazon region lost 7.893 km² in 2016. The average rate of deforestation between 2013 and 2017 was 38% higher than in 2012, the year with the lowest rate recorded.

Meanwhile, soy expansion for animal feed and other crops are endangering another ecosystem in the Brazilian Cerrado region, the world’s most biodiverse savannah. The Cerrado is the birthplace of many of Brazil’s great water systems and has already lost 50% of its original area (pdf). In 2015, the land conversion in the Brazilian Cerrado was 9.483 km².

Brazil is in the midst of a political crisis which has dismantled environmental and human rights safeguards, and exposed previously protected areas of rainforest to deforestation from agriculture.

The leaked EU-Mercosur papers published by Greenpeace Netherlands are dated July 2017 (plus one document from 2016). If it is concluded, the EU-Mercosur agreement could be the EU’s biggest ever trade deal, covering a trade volume similar to the EU’s trade with Japan.

Download: Greenpeace Questions & Answers on the MERCOSUR leak (pdf)

This press release was amended on 12 December 2017 to incorporate new figures on deforestation and land use in Brazil.

Kees Kodde – Greenpeace trade campaigner: +31 6 53623818,
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.