Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Monday 23 July 2018

It's make or break time on Mercosur beef deal

Minister warns of 'immediate threat' to beef sector from Commission's bargaining position

Cattle are loaded at the Lebanese flag ship NADA in the port of Santos, Brazil December 2, 2017. Twenty-seven thousand animals will be transported to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Iskenderun, according to Ecoporto terminal company. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Cattle are loaded at the Lebanese flag ship NADA in the port of Santos, Brazil December 2, 2017. Twenty-seven thousand animals will be transported to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Iskenderun, according to Ecoporto terminal company. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker
Minister of State Andrew Doyle

Sarah Collins and Louise Hogan

The Irish Government is upping the ante on its opposition to an agreement that could grant Brazil and Argentina increased access into the EU's prime beef market.

High-level talks on the proposed trade deal between the EU and Mercosur bloc of South American nations resume today.

Ireland and a coalition of over 10 EU states are lobbying to restrict the potential beef offer well below 100,000 tonnes, according to an EU source.

Speculation has mounted that there has been willingness on the part of some of the larger EU members states to push the offer over 100,000 tonnes.

Minister of State Andrew Doyle told his EU colleagues there was a "very clear, immediate and significant threat" from the Commission's most recent offer to lower tariffs on 70,000 tonnes of South American beef imports.

He insisted there could be "no further agriculture concessions" in the trade talks, particularly on beef, as Ireland and the rest of the EU grapples with Brexit and struggles to meet new climate targets.

REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

"To offer a higher amount would represent a reckless move that would simply compound the difficulties that have already been created, and further jeopardise the prospects for the sector," he told ministers ahead of today's talks.

Discussions with the four South American countries - Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay - resume this week after halting in December.

Also Read


Mercosur ministers will meet European Commission trade chief Cecilia Malmström today in Brussels for a "final stretch of talks towards a trade deal", an EU source said. The meeting is being seen as a litmus test for whether a deal this year is possible.

IFA president Joe Healy warned it was "crunch time" as he stated the moves for a potential deal were undermining European policy and values on the environment and animal welfare.

It is understood the Brazilian side want an offer of a beef quota of at least 130,000 tonnes back on the table.

"There is a clear contradiction at EU level. One arm of the Commission is prepared to do this deal and undermine the environment and animal welfare," said Mr Healy.

Read also: Analysis: What's your beef? Europe, Latin American trade talks falter

Quotas

Newly elected ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham said it would be "insane to make decisions now on opening the floodgates to Brazilian beef when we cannot forecast what beef import deals might be done by the UK post Brexit".

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said the proposed Mercosur beef quotas "defy logic", and added that the meat would be coming from a production system that threatens global environmental sustainability.

Further quotas for an extra 40,000t of poultry and 12,250t of pig meat have also been offered.

An EU Joint Research Centre report has found the European beef sector is vulnerable to trade deals with increased imports from Mercosur hitting EU beef prices by up to 16pc or €5bn.

The impact on Ireland would be greater, potentially costing between €500m to €750m, the analysis found.

Meat Industry Ireland's Cormac Healy warned there was momentum and pressure from the EU's trade department to close a deal.

"We are being told it has an overall benefit but where do you draw the line in terms of how much damage you are willing to do to one sector?" he queried.

Mr Healy said it had been clearly explained that the quotas would be used for high-quality cuts and would have a significant impact on the EU market which consumes around 800,000t of premium cuts.

Indo Farming

Get the latest news from the FarmIreland team 3 times a week.





More in Agri-Business