Petition handed in opposing Switzerland-Mercosur trade deal

Mercosur leaders at a summit of the trade organisation, July 2019. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

A 65,000-strong petition has been handed into federal authorities in Bern demanding the cancellation, or significant revision, of a trade deal between EFTA – of which Switzerland is part – and the Mercosur trade bloc.

This content was published on August 29, 2019 - 17:14

The petition titled “No free trade deal between Switzerland and Amazon destroyer Bolsonaro” demands that Bern hold off on signing a recently-announced EFTA-Mercosur agreement unless it contains provisions to sanction human rights or environmental violations.

It was organised by Campax, an NGO campaigning for “a solidary society, a sustainable economy and an intact environment”, according to its website.

Campax said that the 65,000 signatures were gathered in less than one week.

Echoing the concerns of Swiss farmers voiced some days ago, Campax writes that the deal would “increase Brazilian exports of beef and soy and thus promote deforestation”.

“It’s not only ecologically and ethically irresponsible to conclude a free trade deal with [Brazilian president] Bolsonaro – it doesn’t make economic sense either,” the group writes.

Campax argues that signing the deal would encourage the Bolsonaro administration’s destructive habits in the Amazon rainforest and lead to more global warming, the consequences of which are much greater for Switzerland than short-term trade benefits.

Political opposition

The mooted deal between EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein) and the Mercosur bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay) was confirmed by Swiss economics minister Guy Parmelin last Saturday.

The deal would mean that around 95% of Swiss exports to the Mercosur area would be tariff-free, his ministry wrote. Technical barriers to trade would be abolished and Swiss service providers would have easier access to markets.

Although petitions in Switzerland contain no legal weight, Campax’s initiative reinforces other groups that are unhappy with the deal.

A coalition of Swiss farming organisations, consumers and NGOs, known as the Mercosur coalition, said it would put the deal to the test in parliament and would be checking whether the criteria for environmental and animal welfare, as well as consumer and human rights protection, were fulfilled.

The Green Party has said it will oppose the deal in parliament, and if this doesn’t work, it will begin gathering the 50,000 signatures needed to force a national referendum.

And the left-wing Social Democrats, the second-biggest party in parliament, said on Wednesday they would support the Green Party referendum “unless guarantees are given as to the effective protection of the rainforest and the workers on site”.

The economics ministry hopes to convince parliament to ratify the deal by 2021.

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