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Minister Smith meets EU Trade Commissioner, Mr Karel De Gucht on Mercosur Trade Talks

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, met EU Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht in Brussels yesterday to draw his attention to the serious concerns of the Irish Government about the possible impact of a trade agreement with the MERCOSUR group of South American countries.  The Minister told the Commissioner that he was particularly concerned about the impact such an agreement might have on the beef sector and notably on the high value beef cuts market in the EU.

"Beef quotas of 300,000 tonnes which have been sought by MERCOSUR would certainly target the market for high value product", the Minister said "and would seriously undermine our beef industry".  The Minister explained that this distinct segment of the overall EU beef market accounts for around 25% of the value of the market although it represents only 6% of production.

Minister Smith said environmental considerations should be factored into any agreement with MERCOSUR.  The Common Agricultural Policy ensured that EU beef was produced in a sustainable manner with reduced carbon emissions.  The same could not be said for South American production where emissions were well in excess of Irish levels.  "In such circumstances the EU should not allow its production to be displaced by less sustainable systems", the Minister said.

Minister Smith, in his meeting on Monday morning with Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, outlined again the Irish concerns as detailed in a submission made to the Commissioner some time ago.

Date Released: 14 July 2010