EU leaders under fire on Mercosur beef proposals

REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

Sarah Collins

EU plans to negotiate on beef with the South American Mercosur bloc have prompted a backlash from MEPs and farmers’ groups.

Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness said that Brexit complicated the talks and that there was still “work to be done” before a beef offer should be tabled.

“Any potential offer by the EU must take account of the sensitive nature of beef not just for Ireland but also for France and the EU in general,” Ms McGuinness said.

“There is the additional complication that the EU continues to negotiate for 28 member states until such time as the UK leaves the EU in March of 2019. This is another issue which will need to be take account of.”

The Irish Farmers’ Association voiced concerns again last week following reports in the Farming Independent that the EU is ready to table a beef offer as soon as October.

“The stark reality is that without the UK market, the EU beef sector would become 116pc self-sufficient and there is simply no room for any additional beef imports,” said IFA president Joe Healy. “The EU Commission must insist that beef is excluded from the Mercosur trade discussions.”

Mr Healy also said that Brazil and other Mercosur countries fail to meet EU standards on traceability, food safety, animal welfare and the environment.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has also said beef should be excluded from any Mercosur deal, while MEPs in the Parliament’s agriculture committee have repeatedly voiced their concerns. A 2016 Commission impact assessment also found that beef farmers will be the biggest losers from future EU trade deals, particularly Mercosur.

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“We will be watching developments closely, although at this stage I understand that no beef offer has been agreed on and that Mercosur had been warned not to push too hard for concessions which would be unacceptable to the farm sector,” Ms McGuinness said.

South American countries already have a substantial agricultural trade surplus with the EU, worth around 10 times EU agricultural exports to the zone.

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