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Coughlan rejects Falconer paper on WTO

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan, has rejected the "challenges" paper issued last week by the Chairman of the WTO Agriculture Committee. The Minister was speaking following Monday's Agriculture Council at which the majority of EU Member States had supported the Irish view. She said that there was nothing in the paper to serve the interests of the Community and everything in it to adversely affect our position.

She said the paper was notable for the way in which it sought to push the EU well beyond our established position while adopting a far more tentative approach to some of our negotiating partners. She singled out the unbalanced way in which the paper addressed the EU position on domestic support and market access, both fundamental issues for Ireland. She also stressed the importance of "parallelism" in relation to any further actions on export refunds which had been a key element in the Hong Kong outcome. In short, the unbalanced approach in the paper was not an acceptable basis for negotiations.

Speaking at the EU Agriculture Council, the Minister said that the paper reinforced the point she has made repeatedly at Council that a sector by sector approach to negotiations is flawed and undermines the EU position. She called for a return to balanced and parallel negotiations that cover all aspects of the negotiations and not simply agriculture.

"The Community must keep all elements of the negotiations on the table to avoid being isolated and forced into concessions on one issue after another", the Minister said.

The Minister expressed satisfaction at the level of solidarity among EU Member States regarding the WTO negotiations. She was particularly pleased at the supportive stance adopted at the Council by France in the light of the change of administration there. This was a clear signal, the Minister said, that the EU would not be pushed into an agreement for the sake of it at the expense of the future sustainability of EU agriculture.

Minister Coughlan had re-emphasised views she had expressed previously in the Agriculture Council and indeed during WTO negotiations such as in Hong Kong in 2005 and in Geneva in 2006. She said that Ireland was in favour of reaching a conclusion of the WTO Doha Round and would work constructively in that direction, but would not accept an outcome which lacked balance or which sought to make agriculture shoulder an unacceptable burden in the process. The Falconer paper, according to the Minister, in failing to take this into account contributes nothing to advancing the Round.

9 May, 2007

Date Released: 09 May 2007