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Wednesday 26 September 2018

Hogan lashes Mercosur ‘megaphone’ tactics

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters

Sarah Collins

Another round of Mercosur and EU trade talks begins this week in Uruguay, with trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström on stand-by to attend (she will be in the region at a G20 meeting).

But little progress is expected, particularly after Brazil’s foreign minister told the Financial Times in an interview that the EU’s offer was not generous enough.

Agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan last week hit out at what he called “megaphone diplomacy” by the Mercosur side, saying it “will not help produce the right result”.

Mr Hogan said the EU has made a “genuine” offer to Mercosur on beef, sugar and ethanol, but has “yet to get a proper response”. The EU is looking for increased access to South American auto, ship and dairy markets, and protections for specialty produce such as feta and Prosecco.

“If we cannot achieve a good and balanced outcome in respect of all these issues, there cannot be a deal that will get the support of our Member States, our farmers and our citizens,” Mr Hogan said in a written statement.

The Mercosur talks, which have been going on for more than 20 years, have been marred by stops and starts. Several EU countries, particularly France and Ireland, object to what they see as an over-generous offer on beef. The EU insists any new import quota will not go beyond 99,000 tonnes.

IFA President Joe Healy said the time has come for EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan put his foot down and tell Trade Commissioner Malmstrom enough is enough.

Joe Healy said, “With major uncertainty over Brexit and only contempt being shown by Brazil in their failure to meet EU standards on imports, the time has come for Commission Hogan to shout stop on Mercosur”.

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Joe Healy said EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan must deliver on their commitment to put Ireland first in Brexit and ensure that there is no Mercosur deal on beef while Brexit remains unsorted.

The IFA President said the Mercosur negotiations lack credibility and are taking place against a background where there are major political scandals and unrest in Brazil and economic meltdown in Argentina.

He said these are the big two Mercosur member states the EU are relying on to pull off a deal. “Elections are set to take place in Brazil in October against a background of massive political corruption, deep economic recession and rising unrest”.

The IFA President said the economic collapse in Argentina has seen the currency devalue in the last 12 months from 20.25 ARS to the Euro down to 44.98 ARS last week.

"This is a devaluation of 125pc and shows how ludicrous it would be for the EU to agree to any type of a trade deal with such an unstable economy.

"He said with this type of devaluation Argentina could flood the EU with cheap substandard beef and other agricultural products. In addition he said the Brazilian real (BRL) has devalued by 33pc from 3.68 to 4.90 against the €uro in the last year and the Uruguayan Peso (UYU) has devalued by 12pc from 33.80 to 37.80 to the €uro," he said.

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