EU and South America clinch free trade deal

The EU and the South American trade block Mercosur have agreed on a major trade deal. First launched in 2000, the negotiations between the EU on the one side and Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on the other were concluded last week. No less than 772 million people now live within the trade bloc. Is this good news?

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

A historic agreement

The agreement bucks the current trend, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung writes in praise:

“Even on sober reflection, this treaty between the EU and Mercosur on the creation of a free-trade zone can be viewed as historic. It sends a strong signal that a powerful economic zone binding Europe and South America is emerging. Across the world, the forces that oppose the free exchange of goods, international trade rules and deals between states and regions are growing. What's more, it's entirely possible that this agreement will give other negotiations on free-trade zones a boost. The EU and Vietnam have just signed a free-trade and investment protection agreement, for example.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Free trade is the root of all environmental woes

Nicolas Hulot, former French environmental minister and a prominent environmentalist, takes a dim view of the agreement in an interview with Le Monde:

“This sort of political decision shows that we have no systematic, global approach in the fight against climate change. We're still a long way from reaching a coherent position. This agreement negates our previous ambitions as well as the task at hand. ... We're victims of what some economists call the 'tragedy of horizons', meaning an inability to combine short-term and long-term thinking. The moment comes when you have to make a choice, you can't have things both ways. Free trade is at the root of all of our ecological problems. Extending it will only make the problem worse.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Ecology must not become totalitarian

Philosopher Pascal Bruckner voices very different concerns in Le Figaro:

“Ecology is at a crossroads: either it will espouse the democratisation of societies or it will lead to a new totalitarianism in the name of the cult of Gaia [who personified the Earth in Greek mythology]. She is the sole new force of the last half century, denouncing the harm done by progress and industrial society. She has raised our awareness of nature and the suffering of animals, and anticipated the depletion of fossil fuels. Starting from this new awareness a whole Apocalypse scenario that bangs on the drum of panic and borrows from gnosticism and Medieval messianism has been generated. ... It's here that dictatorial tendencies can arise.”