MPs in Austria have dealt a blow to the EU’s landmark trade deal with South America’s economic bloc, by demanding a government veto on the deal.
The draft free trade agreement took 20 years to complete and the EU has described it as its biggest so far.
France and Ireland have already warned they will reject the deal if Brazil does not do more to curb fires in the Amazon rainforest.
Austrian groups say the deal must do more to tackle environment issues.
All but one of Austria’s main parties rejected the deal in a parliamentary sub-committee, from the far right to the centre left.
Mercosur includes four South American economies – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. A fifth member, Venezuela, is currently suspended.
Without backing from every government in the EU, the Mercosur deal cannot go through.
Jörg Leichtfried of the centre-left SPÖ hailed the decision as a “great success for consumers, the environment and animal welfare as well as human rights”, warning that it would have been bad for climate protection and labour rights in South America.
Austria’s trade union federation ÖGB had campaigned against the deal, arguing it had not sought binding rules on workers and the environment but focused on the interests of industry rather than people.
Green MEP Monika Vana praised the decision as “laying down a marker in Europe”.
Austria’s federation of industry, however, has backed the Mercosur deal, warning against “populist scaremongering and free-trade myths” and insisting that the deal includes a commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and the fight against deforestation in the Amazon.
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