Mercosur deal could be agreed next week despite 'difficult agriculture issues' - Hogan

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Getty Images
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Getty Images

Claire Fox and Sarah Collins

A Mercosur deal could be agreed by the end of next week if the right circumstances are in place, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has said.

At an EU Council meeting Mr Hogan insisted that the deal wasn’t being rushed and added there were still differences on agricultural issues between the EU and Mercosur countries that need to be resolved such as the volume numbers that Mercosur were seeking which he said weren't "realistic".

“Progress has been made in recent months certainly but again there are always difficult issues usually left till the finish and at the end of these negotiations we still have differences on agriculture.

"There are many demands and expectations being made by Mercosur countries which are not reflecting sensitives on the EU mandate on beef and sugar and ethanol and poultry,” he said.

“The type of numbers that are being sought by Mercosur countries on volumes are completely not realistic in terms of the European Union can agree to.”

He added that there were issues to be resolved in terms of safeguard mechanisms and the environment standards but that an agreement could be made next week if the right conditions are met.

“We do expect to make further progress next week at technical level. If we have the right circumstances by the end of next week in a ministerial meeting we will have a deal but we want to have a deal that is approved by Member States and regions.

“We are working closely to see if we can get common ground to moderate expectations on agriculture. We have a very good deal on offer on the industrial side and of course we have pressures on us in terms of agriculture to pay for those.”

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The EU has been negotiating with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay for almost 20 years. Talks have broken down, frozen and restarted numerous times - with the latest burst of momentum beginning in 2017.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecelia Malmström said there were “complicated matters remaining - agriculture and a few others” but that there is a window to do a deal before she leaves office in October.

Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has also made positive noises about signing a deal.

The IFA is strongly opposed to any deal, with association president, Joe Healy, calling on the Taoiseach to intervene. 

“In view of the major Brexit implications overhanging the Irish and EU beef sector and the environmental degradation associated with Brazilian beef exports, it would be reckless to support a Mercosur deal,” Mr Healy said on a visit to Brussels last week.

A letter from a small group of countries was expected to be sent to Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker this week to warn him about the deal.

Technical discussions to finalise a deal are tentatively scheduled for June 24, with a ministerial meeting pencilled in for June 27 in Brussels - Ms Malmström and EU agriculture chief. Phil Hogan, are expected to attend this meeting.

The idea would then be to sign the deal at a G20 meeting in Japan this month.

The EU is expected to table a beef quota offer to Mercosur of 99,000 tonnes, and to offer more market access to the Mercosur countries on sugar, ethanol and other agri-food products.

Online Editors


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