Breeders fear EU-Mercosur pact will affect Belgium business

A Limousin breed cow is held by the bridle after a competition during the Libramont outdoor agricultural fair in Libramont, Belgium. (AFP)
Updated 29 July 2019

Breeders fear EU-Mercosur pact will affect Belgium business

  • Farmers at Libramont are unconvinced and pessimistic for the future despite the impressive size and quality of their livestock, proudly on display
  • Farmers to face competition from the vast ranches of South America

LIBRAMONT, BELGIUM: The Libramont agricultural show is the highlight of the year for Belgium’s proud beef industry, but this year even the sunny skies of western Europe’s record heatwave couldn’t chase one looming shadow away.

The breeders parading their famous Belgian Blue beef cattle will soon face competition from the vast ranches of the South American pampas.
Resistance is building among some European farmers against a draft trade deal reached by EU officials with the Mercosur group — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.
After 20 years of negotiations, officials in Brussels — 140 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of the pastures of Ardennes — are very pleased with the accord that could save European exporters €4 billion ($4.5 billion) in duties per year.
But, as member states decide whether to ratify and implement the deal, EU farmers and environmentalists are less excited.
Beef breeders in particular say that EU quality standards are higher than those in Latin America, and fear a flood of cheap meat will drive them to the wall.
“We are already close to over-production in all of Europe and in Wallonia as well ... The last thing we need is Brazilian meat, especially when we see the conditions in which it is produced,” warns Hughes Falys, beef producer and farmers’ union spokesman.
“Mercosur isn’t a case of ‘Yes, maybe’ or ‘Yes, if’. Mercosur is ‘No!’,” declares the Wallonia regional Farming Minister Rene Collin to loud applause.
Collin might not be a regular on the G20 summit circuit or at WTO get-togethers. But the world’s trade negotiators may find they have to listen to the French-speaking Belgian region of Wallonia, home to only 3.6 million people.
In 2016, the region held up Belgium’s signature of the CETA trade deal between the entire EU and Canada, and it could make life complicated for Brussels once again.
“We made them evolve CETA. We made them put important safeguard clauses in there. We’ll be just as vigilant when it comes to Mercosur,” Collin told AFP at the four-day fair and trade show.

BACKGROUND

• Resistance is building among some European farmers against a draft deal reached by EU officials with the Mercosur group.

• After 20 years of negotiations, officials in Brussels are very pleased with the accord that could save European exporters €4 billion in duties per year.

• But, as member states decide whether to ratify and implement the deal, EU farmers and environmentalists are less excited.

And he warns that the regional Parliament and Belgium’s members of the European Parliament could vote against ratification.
The European Commission has tried to reassure farmers, so far to no avail.
The deal contains two big promises to the sector: Increased beef imports will be limited to 99,000 tons a year, and €1 billion will be set aside for European farmers.
Farmers at Libramont are unconvinced and pessimistic for the future despite the impressive size and quality of their livestock, proudly on display.
“Lots of older farmers find it difficult to sell up, especially livestock farmers,” says Beatrice Ghyselen, a 61-year-old farmer from Vedrin, outside the Wallon capital Namur.


Dubai’s Al-Habtoor Group to open representative office in Israel

Updated 20 September 2020

Dubai’s Al-Habtoor Group to open representative office in Israel

  • Al-Habtoor and Fogel both welcomed the landmark agreement that was signed on Sept. 15 in the US
  • The tycoon revealed his plans to open a representative office in Israel

DUBAI: Dubai’s Al-Habtoor Group (AHG) plans to open a representative office in Israel its chairman said, following an historic peace deal signed last week between the UAE and Israel to normalize relations.

Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor, who is AHG founding chairman, welcomed Ampa Group’s co-owner, chairman and CEO Shlomi Fogel at the hospitality conglomerate’s Dubai headquarters. Ampa Group deals in real estate, finance and industry. 

Al-Habtoor and Fogel both welcomed the landmark agreement that was signed on Sept. 15 in the US. 

The UAE and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords in a ceremony overseen by US President Donald Trump. The two Gulf countries join Egypt and Jordan as the only Arab nations to have full relations with Israel.

“I have been looking forward to this day for a very long time,” Al-Habtoor said. “I have always believed that Emiratis and Israelis have a lot in common. Both peoples are business-oriented and have relied on human talent and ambition more than their countries’ natural resources to build robust, innovative economies. The opportunities that this deal will present are great for both sides. I am confident this will open up new doors and lead to stronger economies, and closer cultural ties between the peoples.”

The tycoon revealed his plans to open a representative office in Israel and said that there was a lot of interest in collaboration.

“We have received a large number of inquiries for collaboration in several fields, ranging from AI and technology, to agriculture, hospitality and trading. The possibilities are endless for both sides in our diversified fields and new ones, and we want to be present to grasp them.”

He previously disclosed that AHG had started talks with Israeli domestic carrier Israir Airlines to open direct commercial flights, “and we are preparing to reveal a few collaborations in the coming days.”

Fogel said that peace would be cemented through successful business collaboration and trade. “Together with our Emirati counterparts we will show the way to live in peace to the rest of the world,” he added.

Fogel was accompanied at the meeting by Ampa Group executives, including Erez Katz and Saar Bracha.

AHG was represented at the meeting by Mohammed Al-Habtoor, Ahmad Al-Habtoor, Maan Halabi, Sanjeev Agarwala and other members of senior management.