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Emmanuel Macron’s explosive text is huge threat to Ursula von der Leyen’s EU trade deal | World | News

French President Emmanuel Macron has launched an all-out assault on the decades-in-the-making trade deal between the European Union and the Mercosur group of Latin American countries.

The proposed agreement, aiming to establish a free trade area encompassing nearly 800 million people, has ignited controversy within the EU, particularly in France, where Macron is facing a revolt from angry farmers.

Last week, Macron conveyed his apprehensions directly to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in a private text message, and insiders suggest that she signalled her agreement with Macron’s stance.

“We need clarity on Mercosur, we ask that the deal should not be signed in its current shape,” Macron stressed during a visit to Sweden on Tuesday.

The French president is set to discuss the matter face-to-face with von der Leyen during a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels today (February 1). Macron’s leverage in this situation lies in von der Leyen’s delicate political position, considering her potential bid for a second term as Commission President.

“Ursula von der Leyen knows that she needs the support of President Macron in the perspective of a possible second mandate,” stated an anonymous French MEP aligned with Macron’s camp.

South American nations involved in the Mercosur negotiations share a similar perspective, recognising the critical role France plays in von der Leyen’s potential re-election bid.

A diplomat from a Mercosur nation emphasised that ongoing farmers’ protests in France have exerted “huge pressure” on the Commission.

Despite Macron’s public call to halt the Mercosur deal, both EU officials and Mercosur diplomats reject the notion that negotiations are on hold. Chief negotiators convened last week in Brazil, and further discussions are scheduled via videoconference in the coming weeks, according to Mercosur diplomats.

“There is no stop,” affirmed Michael Hager, head of the cabinet of EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. “It’s certainly not the case that we suddenly tear up our papers, go home and lie down in a deckchair.”

Commission spokesperson Olof Gill confirmed the exchange between Macron and von der Leyen but did not explicitly state whether the Commission President had ordered a suspension of the trade talks. Gill highlighted that certain outstanding issues still need addressing, stating,

“Currently the Commission’s assessment is that the conditions to conclude the Mercosur negotiations are not met.” The future of the EU-Mercosur trade deal hangs in the balance as Macron and von der Leyen prepare to navigate this high-stakes diplomatic showdown.

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