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Thursday 18 October 2018

'It is a real battle': Creed warns of very significant forces pushing beef deal with South Americans

REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

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.

"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 Feb. 19, a Commission spokesman said on Friday.

"There is still some work to be done," he told a Commission news conference.

The EU signaled last week that it could open up its market to more beef from Mercosur countries Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, raising its potential offer for beef access to 99,000 tonnes per year from a previous 70,000 tonnes, people close to the talks said.

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The people said it was not clear how the tonnage would be split, such as between more expensive chilled and cheaper frozen meat, and whether tariffs would still apply.

Beef has been a key demand for the Mercosur countries, but a concern for EU farming nations such as Ireland and France.

Responding to questioning from Fianna Fail Agriculture Spokesperson Charlie McConalogue in the Dail this week Minister Creed said the Government have indicated clearly we are unhappy with the 70,000 tonnes offer for obvious reasons including, as mentioned, the Brexit scenario and the Commission's cumulative impact assessment.

“The European Council and its decision making process is made up of many member states with many competing interests.

“We are one voice but we have built a coalition of like-minded member states on this. We are doing everything we possibly can to ensure the view holds sway.

“At this stage, the negotiations are at a point where the next move with respect to impediments to a deal will come from the Mercosur negotiators.

“We remain constantly engaged on the matter with every player involved, including Commissioners Hogan and Malmström.

“I am in contact with like-minded member states, particularly the French, to ensure we get the best possible deal,” he said.


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