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Coughlan wants EU to insist on equivalent standards from beef imports from Third Countries

Speaking at the official opening of Tullamore Agricultural Show today, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, referred to the current status of the WTO talks and in particular the issue of increased access for livestock products, especially beef to the EU market. In this regard the Minister emphasised that human, animal and plant health issues, otherwise known as sanitary and phytosanitary issues (SPS), could not play second fiddle to meeting the demand for beef in the EU. As far as she was concerned human and animal health issues were paramount and SPS issues were already a cause of great concern to her.

Within the context of trade agreements currently in place the Minister said that she fully supported the policy that animal products imported into the EU from Third Countries should meet standards equivalent to those required for production and trade within the EU. The Minister said that this was as it should be and it was in line with what EU consumers expected.

"I have concerns with the application of the term 'equivalence' by the EU in the context of certain food imports and I have brought this to the attention of the Commission. Taking beef as a case in point, all recent reports by the EU Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) clearly showed that a major player - Brazil - could not be judged to offer guarantees equivalent to those provided for in Community legislation. Yet Brazil continues to export very significant quantities of beef to the EU. It is difficult to reconcile this fact with the content of the FVO reports."

Minister Coughlan said that food producers within the EU were, rightly in their view, subject very tight regulation and produced food to the highest standards. It was totally unrealistic to expect EU producers to continue to labour under such a heavy cost regime when imported product was not subject to an equivalent level of regulation.

The Minister commended exhibitions of livestock at the Show for the high standard of the stock on display. She added that while Irish producers were fully committed to producing a high quality product, she was concerned that a level of playing field should apply to all meat on sale in the EU.

Minister Coughlan added that she believed that countries which could not provide guarantees of equivalence should have their access to EU markets restricted until such time as these guarantees could be satisfactorily provided.

13 August 2006

Date Released: 13 August 2006