Brussels – European farmers and environmentalists have denounced a historic trade deal signed between the EU and South American countries as a “dark moment”, warning of unfair competition and dire consequences for the climate.

The European Union and South American trade bloc Mercosur sealed the blockbuster pact on Friday evening, ending 20 years of talks over one of the world’s largest regional commercial accords.

Tough negotiations between the EU and the Mercosur countries — Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay — had repeatedly stalled because of European farmer sensitivities over the beef market.

Brussels said the EU’s largest ever deal would save European companies more than four billion euros ($4.5 billion) in trade duties every year.

But shortly after its announcement, the agreement sparked an angry backlash including from the Copa-Cogeca union, which represents 23 million farmers across the EU.

“This deal will go down in history as a very dark moment,” Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen tweeted.

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