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Minister Smith criticises WTO proposals

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today chaired the G14+ group of EU Agriculture Ministers, while attending the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels.

The G14+ group represents up to 20 like-minded Member States who have met regularly to discuss issues of concern in relation to WTO. Today's meeting took place less than a week before the Ministerial meeting on WTO in Geneva. Addressing his colleagues Minister Smith stressed that all Member States present shared a desire to achieve a WTO deal.

"We all recognise the benefits of the multilateral trading system and the lift that could be given to the world economy by a successful deal. But that deal must be balanced and must take account of the EU's own interests especially in agriculture." said the Minister.

The Minister underlined his concern about the latest WTO negotiating document on agriculture. He said he remained worried about the proposed new language on the 'Green Box' under which EU payments amounting to almost EUR 2 billion per year to Irish farmers are protected from reduction commitments. He also contrasted the many concessions which have been made by the EU on agriculture with the lack of progress on other aspects of the negotiations.

Given that a ministerial meeting has now been convened, the Minister called on his EU colleagues to focus their energies on "ensuring that we are not pushed into a bad deal by the timing of the US elections and desire by some for a legacy."

In the course of the Council meeting, Ministers also had a lengthy discussion on the CAP Health Check during which Minister Smith expressed his continued opposition to the proposed increases in modulation, which he said "run counter to the legitimate expectation of farmers, who accepted decoupling just three years ago, and who are still in the process of adapting to that fundamental change."

The Minister also called for more ambitious increases in milk quotas, "well above the level proposed by the Commission." Minister Smith described Ireland as a country with "significant production potential."

While acknowledging some of the proposals in relation to cross-compliance, the Minister called for operational simplification with a view to reducing the burden of cross-compliance on farmers and on the administration.

Date Released: 15 July 2008