EU-Mercosur trade deal 'invitation' to other agreements: Brazil beef group

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A trade deal between the European Union and South America’s Mercosur bloc of countries could facilitate other agreements and open up new markets for Brazil’s massive beef-packing industry, a trade group said.

FILE PHOTO: Employees work at the assembly line of jerked beef at a plant of JBS S.A, the world's largest beef producer, in Santana de Parnaiba, Brazil December 19, 2017. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker

Speaking one week after Brussels and Brasília announced an agreement to reduce barriers on industrial and farm products, Antônio Camardelli, head of Brazil’s Abiec beef association, said the deal could pave the way to negotiating access to new markets or expanding trade with existing partners.

“A deal of this magnitude is like an invitation card for speaking with other countries and trade blocs,” Camardelli told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday.

He mentioned Indonesia and Thailand as prospective new markets for Brazil, the world’s biggest beef exporter with sales of around $7 billion last year.

Though Europe is not Brazil’s largest buyer, it is the country’s best-paying customer for some prime beef cuts, Camardelli said.

Camardelli said the deal boosts the prospects for more Brazilian beef sales to the EU, as it commands a 42.5% share of the new 99,000-tonne annual quota for beef exports to EU member countries that will be assigned to Mercosur. Tax on the new quota will be 7.5%.

The annual quota is for Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay as well as Brazil.

The new trade terms, once implemented, would also reduce to zero from 20% a levy on beef imports into the EU under the so-called Hilton quota. That quota allows Brazil and Argentina to each export up to 10,000 tonnes of beef, and 29,500 tonnes of prime beef cuts, to the EU per year.

With the exception of the Hilton terms, the EU-Mercosur deal does not change any other EU tariffs, Camardelli said, referring to the levies ranging from 12.8% to 20% that Brazil pays to sell beef into the EU under other existing quotas still in place.

But Camardelli expects the deal will also allow Brazilian sales of lower-value cuts to the EU, which previously higher tariffs discouraged. Such cuts could be bought mostly by EU food processors, he said.

Brazil’s average beef exports into the EU over the past 10 years totaled 120,000 tonnes per year, according to government data compiled by Abiec.

On Friday, Abiec reiterated overall beef exports are expected to rise by 10% both in volume and in financial terms in 2019.

Reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Tom Brown