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Minister Smith Outlines Firm Stance On WTO At Council Of Ministers Meeting

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, speaking after the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels today, re-affirmed the Government's resolve to achieve a balanced outcome to the ongoing WTO negotiations.

The Minister also drew attention to the passage of the Farm Bill in the United States Congress and said its thrust does not suggest that there is any appetite in Washington for a balanced deal, while in the EU we find ourselves approaching the stage where the WTO Director General is expected to call a Ministerial meeting to attempt a partial conclusion of the round.

Outlining Ireland's position Minister Smith said: "We want a WTO agreement as much as other Member States and our trading partners, but it must be balanced. An agreement that places the agriculture pillar out front in the negotiations, and delivers few if any tangible benefits on industrial products and services would be unacceptable to Ireland and to many of our EU partners to whom I spoke today.

"To be acceptable, a WTO agreement must be one that does not undermine EU and Irish agriculture. It must deliver real benefit to Ireland and the EU and also to developing countries."

Minister Smith said he has serious concerns with the current direction of the negotiations and with some of the proposals emanating from Geneva.

The Minister outlined his particular concern in relation to the possible impact of the proposals on the beef, dairy and sheepmeat sectors. Noting that Ireland had repeatedly made these points in the Agriculture and General Affairs Councils, the Minister stressed the importance of Ireland's consistent stance on the issue of WTO in all relevant EU and other fora.

In conclusion, Minister Smith said: "From my discussions in Brussels I am satisfied that many of my colleagues in the Council of Ministers have similar concerns. I believe that we can work together, in the Agriculture Council, in the General Affairs Council, and in Geneva, to ensure an outcome to the WTO negotiations that is balanced and does not sacrifice EU agriculture."

19 May 2008

Date Released: 19 May 2008