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Coughlan outlines position on WTO at Council of Minister meeting in Brussels

Speaking in Brussels yesterday at the conclusion of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., said that she had taken the opportunity during the debate on the WTO negotiations to demand once again that the Commission fully defend the CAP and Irish and EU agriculture and had urged that no further concession be made in the negotiations which would exceed the terms of the negotiating mandate and necessitate further reform of the CAP.

"Despite the assurances we have received from Commissioner Fisher Boel, and from Commissioner Mandelson at the General Affairs Council yesterday, I am seriously concerned about the current situation and the direction of the negotiations".

Minister Coughlan said that while the EU emerged with some credit from negotiations in Geneva and that it was the US which is now under pressure to come forward with concessions, she felt that this outcome had been achieved at considerable cost to the EU position. The Minister said that Commissioner Mandelson's statement indicating flexibility in the EU position on agriculture - by way of movement towards the position of the G20 group of countries - had been widely interpreted as a concession on which, she believed, the EU will be called upon to deliver as the talks proceed. The Minister insisted that there are fundamental differences between the EU's latest offer of 28 October 2005 and the position of the G20.

In the meantime, the Minister pointed out, no progress has been made in relation to the EU vital interests on domestic support issues, full parallelism for all forms of export subsidies, market access issues or Non-Trade concerns.

"Our offer of 28 October 2005 was a conditional one and represents the very limit of the EU negotiating position. I do not accept that there is any further room to manoeuvre within the mandate. I believe that further concessions would necessitate another reform of CAP and I again urge that no further concessions of any kind be contemplated" said Minister Coughlan.

The Minister added that the EU offer was conditional on appropriate movement by other WTO negotiating partners in the agriculture negotiations and also on NAMA (industrial goods) and Services. She said that even if appropriate movement is achieved in theses areas, and this was certainly not the case to date, it did not mean the EU should offer further concessions in agriculture. She believed that such concessions would only unbalance the negotiations further, exceed the EU's mandate and require a further reform of the CAP.

In conclusion, Minister Coughlan said that while she was fully committed to the successful conclusion of the current negotiations, such an outcome must not be achieved at the price of further concessions in agriculture. There must be a balanced outcome and EU agriculture must not be sacrificed for the sake of a new agreement.

19 July, 2006

Date Released: 19 July 2006