'I have a responsibility to frustrate, mitigate and dismantle Mercosur ambition and defend Irish beef sector' - Creed

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

The Minister for Agriculture has said it is his responsibility to ensure everything is done to frustrate, mitigate and dismantle the ambition of the Mercosur deal and protect the Irish beef sector.

Speaking in the Dail today, Minister Creed said the lack of environmental ambition in South American countries will help Ireland argue its case "thwart" the Mercosur deal that allows 99,000t of South American beef into Europe.

"It is right that attention has been drawn to environmental and climate issues in the context of this proposal," he said in response to questions from Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill.

"We will, rightly, be implementing significant measures to make progress on climate issues, with which a significant element of the proposed deals.

"If we can use it to frustrate and thwart the ambition of Mercosur and make sure our efforts are legally robust, it may be possible to use the well documented disregard for climate issues of the Mercosur states to our advantage. That is one area."

He also said Ireland has 'friends' in dealing with this issue. "We have made common cause with other member states in the beef sector. Collectively, the challenge is to make progress on these matters in a way that will diminish the ambition of Mercosur.

“We can ensure that the drafting agreement nails and stitches in and double stitches and thwarts the ambitions of those countries if their environmental standards do not meet the requisite standards of EU farmers,” he told the Dail today.

“It is a deal breaker and while I don’t wish to celebrate the lack of environmental ambition in those countries the fact that this is an issue that we can use to our advantage should not be overlooked. There is no agreement ratified by anybody yet. I will be exhausting all opportunities.”

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Meanwhile an EU official told the Farming Independent that if for any reason a problem is picked up regards animal health and welfare standards in the Mercosur countries “a red button can be pushed where farms, regions and ultimately countries can be kicked out of the trade agreement at any stage and would find it very difficult to be left back in”.

They stated that all farms exporting to the EU would have to be vetted and added that safeguards are in place in the event that the EU market is weak that would curb imports from the Mercosur region.

IBEC also said that the recent announcement of the agreement in principle of the EU-Mercosur agreement should see businesses across the Irish economy gain new market access opportunities to a region of almost 300 million consumers.

“While we await a final text and the legal scrubbing process to begin, the initial deal sends a strong signal that the EU remains open to global trade and investment opportunities," IBEC CEO Danny McCoy said.

“As the deal with Mercosur progresses, it is important that sufficient support is given to sectors, such as the Irish beef sector, which will be adversely affected by the deal,” he said.

“As with all FTAs, the EU must also ensure that its South American partners uphold their commitments to all aspects of the deal. Ibec looks forward to detailed engagement with Government on the wide range of opportunities and challenges which the deal would present for a range of business sectors in the context of the proposed economic assessment.”

This comes as Minister Heather Humphreys said in the Dail that the deal could lead to a doubling of Irish exports to the region by 2030, with Irish exports to the region totalling €14m in 2018. However she admitted the deal was not "perfect.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar insisted this week that the government will not back the trade deal if it is not in the country's interests.

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