It is misleading to post on Facebook on May 9, 2021, in a support group for Jair Bolsonaro (non-party), who uses the title of a print edition of Correio Braziliense to congratulate the president on the trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union .
The title used in the post, verified by the Comprova project, dates from June 29, 2019, when the deal was announced at the G20 summit in Brussels, Belgium. Despite its signing, the treaty is not yet being implemented and negotiations for the entry into force of the agreement are stagnating due to obstacles related to the environmental policy of the Bolsonaro government.
The agreement was signed in 2019, but negotiations lasted for 24 years, starting in 1995. According to the Foreign Ministry, the main discussions, divided into three phases, took place between 2000 and 2019, to then devote the pact between the two economic blocs in 2019, the first year in office of President Jair Bolsonaro.
The report reached out to the post’s author on May 13, via Facebook, but did not get any feedback until after that text was published.
How do we check?
At first, the team searched for the cover of Correio Braziliense newspaper, the photo of which appeared in the post, and found it on the newspaper’s official website, published on June 29, 2019. Then they searched information published later on the agreement in question.
Both economic blocs were wanted, in addition to the author of the post published in 2019, who was also responsible for sharing it in 2021, but he did not respond to the message sent via Facebook.
Finally, the expert Renato Flôres, professor at the Center for Prospecting and International Intelligence of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, was heard to comment on the question.
The headline of Correio Braziliense newspaper, “Biggest Deal in History Can Bring $ 100 Billion in Brazil”, pictured in the post, is true and was published on June 29, 2019, the day after announcement of the agreement.
The news details the political dialogue, cooperation and free trade agreement between the countries that make up Mercosur and the European Union (EU). In June 2019, it was considered the biggest deal between two economic blocs in history, as Mercosur and the EU totaled a GDP of US $ 20 trillion and accounted for 25% of the global economy at the time. , in addition to having a market in 780 million people, according to a report published by Agência Brasil and reproduced on the official website of the Executive Secretariat of the Camex (Chamber of Foreign Trade) of the Ministry of the Economy.
Under the agreement, import duties for more than 90% of products traded between the two blocs would be removed. For products for which tariffs were not removed, they would be reduced. The elimination of tariffs would not be immediate – the agreement said that period would take up to 15 years, depending on the product.
Before the treaty, according to the Foreign Ministry, only 24% of Brazilian exports to the European Union were duty free. The European bloc was Mercosur’s second main trading partner. The South American bloc, on the other hand, was only the 8th partner of the EU, to which Brazil exported, in 2018, more than 42 billion US dollars.
A document published in July 2019 by the Foreign Ministry sets out the main rules of the agreement and explains, for example, that the countries of the two blocs have guaranteed the right to adopt the trade defense measures envisaged by the World Organization. (WTO), such as as anti-dumping (which prevents exports at prices below market value), countervailing measures and global safeguards.
According to the Itamaraty document, the agreement also provides for the fight against anti-competitive practices, such as the formation of cartels.
Negotiations had lasted for more than 20 years, starting in 1995, with the signing of a framework agreement for interregional cooperation between Mercosur and the EU in Madrid. However, it was not until 1999 that the objective was set to start negotiations for a bi-regional agreement between the blocs. The decision was taken at the Mercosur-EU summit in Rio de Janeiro.
The first phase of the negotiations took place between 2000 and 2004, but the discussion stopped until 2010, when the dialogue resumed. The second phase took place between 2010 and 2012. A third started in 2016 until the announcement, in June 2019, of the conclusion of the commercial part of the agreement. This timeline is available in the summary of the agreement published by Itamaraty.
The announcement of the signing of the agreement after more than two decades of negotiations took place during the G20 summit in Brussels, Belgium, where the President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro (non-party), and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the time were present from the country, Ernesto Araújo. The president celebrated the feat and treated it as a victory for the Araújo-led team, saying the deal would bring “huge benefits” and later admitting that former president Michel Temer had a role to play in concluding negotiations.
What is the current situation?
The conclusion of the agreement concerning the commercial part does not mean that it is in force. Indeed, after the announcement, a technical and legal revision of the document is necessary, in addition to the translation into the languages of all the countries concerned. Each country must individually ratify the agreement in its parliaments for it to enter into force.
In Europe, however, there is an in-depth discussion involving dissatisfaction with current Brazilian environmental policy. In October last year, the European Parliament approved a text declaring that the agreement could not be ratified for this reason, demonstrating the dissatisfaction of parliamentarians with the way the document is drafted.
In early May 2021, Folha released a detailed report assessing the current state of the deal, pointing out that discussion is on hold and awaiting attachment of additional environmental commitments that have not even started to be negotiated.
The European Union is currently discussing legislation to reduce global deforestation and one of the main points is to ensure that the supply chains of EU countries do not import products from deforested areas.
On May 10, 2021, Argentine President Alberto Fernández, acting president of Mercosur, met Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa and both spoke about the trade deal, according to reports. In a joint statement after the meeting, Fernández recalled the environmental barriers that must be overcome for the agreement to progress.
Three days earlier, on May 7, 2021, in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro was with Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya. At the end of the meeting, she told the press that Spain is in favor of the inclusion of an additional protocol in the pact which “envisages commitments on deforestation”.
The report sent emails to the Mercosur communications offices as well as to the European Parliament. The first recommended contacting the pro-tempore presidency of Mercosur, but we were unable to contact the institution. The second did not respond until the audit was closed. The person responsible for the publication was also contacted and did not return.
Ratification of the agreement
Although it was signed by the representatives of the countries, the agreement is not yet in force. Indeed, it is necessary that the European Parliament validates the terms of the union of the two blocks.
Specialist Renato Flôres, professor at the FGV’s Center for Prospecting and International Intelligence, explained that there are two obstacles to action: the coronavirus pandemic and the environmental policy of the Jair Bolsonaro government.
According to the professor, the pandemic is a major obstacle to any operation between countries, as it has brought more urgent requests to the list of priorities of any government.
On environmental policy, Flôres stresses that the discussion is a factor that raises doubts about international diplomacy, and with the agreement between the European Union and Mercosur, it is no different. “There is a lot of noise. The question of the Amazon poorly explained, poorly understood, there are groups of countries that question it. This is the dimension on which the subject was discussed, ”he says.
Asked about the forecast of the ratification of the agreement, the expert said that it is in a year, if the pandemic is no longer a threat to the world as it is today. The professor believes this will be an important step towards long-term economic recovery.
Why are we investigating?
In its 4th phase, Comprova checks for potentially false or misleading content on social networks, on the pandemic or the federal government, and which has reached a high degree of viralization.
The analyzed post was published in a Facebook group that has 223.5 thousand members, totaling 752 comments, 1.3 thousand shares and 3.8 thousand reactions as of the date of verification, May 13, 2021. In the comments, readers are supporting the deal as if it was signed now and celebrating the $ 100 billion mentioned in the title as if it were a recipe guaranteed by the Bolsonaro government.
Misleading, for Comprova, it is content taken from the original context and used in another so that its meaning may be altered; which uses inaccurate data or which induces a different interpretation of the author’s intention; content that confuses, with or without the deliberate intention to cause harm.