Hogan remains steadfast that any Mercosur deal must be 'balanced'

REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan and his Trade colleague Cecilia Malmstrom will travel South America to see what progress can be made on a Mercosur trade deal.

However, he did not commit to a deal being reached by early March, as some commentators had predicted was likely.

Speaking in Brussels this week, Hogan said that as in any negotiations, it does not center around any one product area, but sometimes people focus on agriculture but we have a lot of technical discussions going on as well.

He also said that it is still open as to whether there will be a successful conclusion to the talks or not at this point. "We will only do a deal if we are satisfied it is a good deal and balanced outcome that reflects the mandate that has been given to the Commission by the Council.

"There are a lot of areas where we are not making as much progress as we should and not receiving the type of offers from the Mercosur countries that we feel we should."

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed told the Dail this week that that the Government remain absolutely steadfast in its opposition to a Mercosur trade deal involving significant volumes of beef.

However, he warned that there are "very significant other forces across the European Union favouring a deal and which would willingly trade beef access for access to other agricultural or industrial products".

“It is a real battle. I have been in contact with Commissioners Hogan and Malmström and I have spoken with the French Minister on a number of occasions about the matter.

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"It is a real cause of concern," he said.

Negotiators for the European Union and Latin American bloc Mercosur have concluded two weeks of talks in Brussels on a free trade deal with no clear breakthrough and no formal offers made.

The two sides’ negotiating teams have agreed to continue discussions in Asuncion, Paraguay, in the week beginning February 19.

Earlier this year, the EU raised its offer for beef access to 99,000t per year from a previous 70,000t, people close to the talks said on Wednesday, though it was not clear how much would be more expensive chilled meat and if it would be tariff-free.

Further, a trade deal, currently between the EU and Mexico is currently being negotiated intensely for the last two weeks has failed to see a deal being struck.

According to the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, he and his Trade Commissioner colleague Cecilia Malmstrom, may travel to Mexico but a number of issues are outstanding, including cars and dairy.

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