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Austrian parliament votes to oppose EU-Mercosur pact

[VIENNA] Austrian lawmakers have voted to oppose a proposed free trade pact between the European Union and the Mercosur bloc of four South American countries, highlighting resistance to the deal in some EU countries without actually killing it.

Nearly all parties in the Austrian parliament's European Union subcommittee voted against the draft for a EU-Mercosur free trade agreement late on Wednesday. That means the government has been told to vote against the deal.

Mercosur, which groups Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, agreed one of the world's biggest trade deals with the 28-country EU this summer after 20 years of negotiations.

The European Commission, which negotiated with Mercosur on behalf of the EU, declined to comment on the Austrian vote.

A Commission spokeswoman said both parties to the deal were performing a "legal revision" to finalise the text, which would be translated into the EU's languages and then submitted to the European Council of EU governments and the European Parliament.

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If they approve the deal, it would then go to individual EU countries for ratification, in many cases requiring a parliamentary vote.

"Basically, ratification has not yet started. I think that's an important aspect to bear in mind," the spokeswoman said.

EU officials have said it will be at least a year before the text can be put up for approval.

Brazil is under pressure from European countries over its environmental policies and an epidemic of forest fires in the Amazon basin.

France said in August it would not support the deal after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro rejected criticism over the Amazon fires. Britain and Germany said France's decision was not the appropriate answer.

The Irish parliament also called on its government in July to thwart the deal.

The EU-Mercosur deal is not be the first EU trade agreement to face resistance. In 2016, opposition from a Belgian region threatened to wreck a planned EU-Canada trade accord. That deal did enter force on a provisional basis in 2017. 


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