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Coveney Voices Strong Irish Concerns on EU Trade Negotiations with Mercosur

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, today expressed strong concerns on the latest developments in relation to the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations. His comments come in response to indications that an EU offer will shortly be presented by the Commission to Member States for discussion next week ahead of a formal exchange of offers with Mercosur in early May. It is understood that this offer will include tariff rate quotas for sensitive products, including beef.

The Minister said: “Ireland has been very active in voicing its concerns regarding an EU trade deal with the Mercosur block of countries, which, according to the Commission’s own analysis, could have a severe impact on the European agriculture sector and on the European beef sector in particular. I have raised the matter with the Commission at every opportunity, including at Council of Ministers meetings in recent months, and I and my officials have been working with other like-minded Member States to ensure that these concerns are taken into account at official and political levels. In addition, both myself and my colleague Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, have been in touch directly with Phil Hogan and Cecilia Malmström, Commissioners for Agriculture and for Trade, respectively. I have followed up these contacts today with a letter to Commissioner Malmström.” 

The Minister highlighted Ireland’s unique exposure to adverse market developments arising from increased access for Mercosur beef to the EU market, given that more than 90% of Irish beef production is exported to the EU. In light of this, he said that any renewed engagement with Mercosur must be preceded by a period of careful reflection and further analysis, which should take into account the recent significant changes in the European agricultural policy environment, the cumulative impact of concessions granted under other free trade agreements, and the need to ensure parity of treatment between the EU single market and what remains a more fragmented market organisation within the Mercosur bloc. “This is particularly important given the severe hardship currently being experienced by farmers across Europe in the face of the ongoing difficulties on agricultural markets, which are likely to continue for some time” the Minister said.

The Minister also expressed concerns in relation to how the negotiations were being conducted. He said: “Instead of including tariff rate quotas at this stage, as appears to be the intention, we must ensure that the treatment of sensitive products is handled at the appropriate point in the negotiation process. The Commission has taken such an approach in relation to TTIP, where the treatment of sensitive products has been deferred to the final stages of negotiations. The same approach must be adopted in relation to Mercosur. We must also ensure that any tariff rate quota ultimately considered is structured in a way that mitigates the potential impact on the EU beef sector.”

Concluding, the Minister said that Ireland will join with a number of other Member States in requesting the addition of the Mercosur trade negotiations to the agenda of next week’s Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg. He will also be keeping the Government informed of developments.

 View Press Release as a PDF:  DAFMPR 33/2016 (pdf 266Kb) 

Date Released: 06 April 2016