What are South American exports

The police immediately handcuffed them. Their raid in March 2017 hit more than 20 slaughterhouses and packing stations across Brazil, including international corporations such as BRF and JBS. The accusation: Salmonella in poultry and spoiled meat, mixed with fresh - and intended for supermarkets, schools and export. The police arrested more than 20 health inspectors. Like politicians, they are said to have allowed themselves to be bribed for years to allow the rotten meats to do their thing.

Brazil's police showed a sense of humor. She named her action Carne fraca: The meat is weak. So it says in the Bible, with the intention that the Spirit is willing. However, the laughter of German consumers could soon get stuck in their throats.

Facilitate the import of meat and other foods

Because the EU is about to conclude a trade pact with Brazil and other countries in South America, which is hardly known to the citizens. The Mercosur Agreement is intended to facilitate the import of meat and other foods to Europe - and could ease consumer protection. That emerges from hundreds of pages of negotiation papers that the Southgerman newspaper received from Greenpeace and other sources. For the first time they allow an insight into the conversations that have been kept secret. The EU wants to accept South American meat companies if the country of origin guarantees that everything will be in order - that seems explosive in view of a corruption scandal in which even the President of Brazil is involved.

The rotten meat affair shows the poles between which Europe moves in its trade policy. On the one hand, after almost 20 years of tough talks, she finally wants a contract with four of the current Mercosur states (graphic). The pact is supposed to increase considerable industrial exports considerably, so it promises more jobs.

In addition, "the agreement is of outstanding strategic importance," said representatives of Germany and other EU nations, according to the minutes of a confidential meeting. It's about occupying markets before the Chinese, for example, do it. And it's about setting an example against the protectionist US President Donald Trump. Because it threatens the system of globalizing free trade that the West has been following since World War II. Because of all of this, Jobs and Trump, the EU and South America are pushing for a deal this year.

France's voters fear cheap imports - the Front National is vying for their votes

But there is another side. French President Emmanuel Macron warned of hurry at the recent Brussels summit. It is primarily driven by local farmers who are afraid of a flood of cheap imports from South America. The right-wing extremist Front National is vying for approval from its agricultural clientele. And Macron formulated another objection: The Mercosur negotiations began in 1999 when environmental and health regulations were less strict than they are today and consumers were less skeptical.

In other words, the contract could be too soft on these points.

These dangers are also contained in the agreement: that more exports from South America accelerate the destruction of the tropical rainforest. That climate protection is suffering because South America is demanding exceptions for its gigantic herds of cattle, which blow lots of greenhouse gases into the air. Nowhere, however, is the conflict between the advantages of trade and possible disadvantages as clear as in consumer protection.

When the rotten meat affair broke out in March 2017, the US stopped all beef exports from Brazil. The EU reacted more softly, it only suspended the companies examined. Brussels then sent a team out. This found the control system for cattle to be in order, but discovered serious deficiencies in poultry. Some slaughterhouses are not examined by official veterinarians. According to the report, officials "sign export certificates without being able to verify the truthfulness of the information", for example because no veterinarians autopsied the dead animals. And: The conditions favored "conflicts of interest".

The meat company JBS itself disclosed what that means in unbureaucratic language. He admitted that for years he had bribed over 200 inspectors on fixed salaries of up to $ 6,000 a month. This is remarkable because Europe already gets more than half of its beef and poultry imports from the Mercosur countries. The Federal Republic alone imports 30,000 tons a year.

After the Gammel affair, the German meat industry stated that it was "highly unlikely that the EU's beef imports will be affected by the crimes currently uncovered in Brazil". However, food inspectors report that poultry delivered to Italy had salmonella above international limit values. The crucial question is now: What happens if Brazil and Co. deliver a lot more food to Europe in the future through the Mercosur Agreement?