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"Initial Reports of EU Impact Assessment on Mercosur Confirms Our Worst Fears" - Coveney

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today described the initial presentation from the EU Commission of its impact assessment of a Free Trade Agreement with the capital MERCOSUR group of South American countries as "quite shocking and confirms the point I have been making for the past number of weeks that a Mercosur deal would damage EU and Irish agriculture.  Ireland cannot allow the Irish and European agri-food sectors to be sacrificed to get a trade agreement".

The presentation was made at a meeting of technical experts in Brussels ahead of the full release of the impact assessment in the coming weeks.  Minister Coveney said that "though the initial analysis shows an overall benefit to the EU from such a deal, the results across all agriculture sectors are negative and the implications for the beef sector and for Ireland are particularly damaging".

The Minister said that he wanted the Commission to produce the full impact assessment as a matter of urgency and said he looked forward to receiving the full report and analysis and having it debated thoroughly and comprehensively within the EU Agriculture Council and directly with the Commission.

Minister Coveney reminded the Commission of "the need for extreme caution in regard to these negotiations.  I will counsel the Commission against exchanging market access offers until there is some movement in the negotiations on the text and until there is a full discussion of the assessment by Member States at a Council meeting".  The Minister confirmed that he was taking the opportunity of a visit to Brussels next week to meet Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and he would convey his concerns directly to her.

The Minister concluded that "the European Council has acknowledged the importance of the EU agriculture sector as a key driver for the success of the EU 2020 strategy and we must ensure that our policies on the CAP, on Trade and on the future strategy for growth in the EU are consistent and coherent with one another.  The ambitious targets we have set ourselves to grow food exports from €8 billion in 2010 to €12 billion in 2020 are an essential growth driver across the economy. An agreement with Mercosur to allow large quantities of South American food into the EU, replacing Irish exports is something I cannot support in the context of the importance to the agri- food sector to our national recovery".

Date Released: 28 April 2011