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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Varadkar says Irish beef industry must be 'taken care of'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Pic: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Pic: Mark Condren
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Margaret Donnelly and Ciaran Moran

The Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the Irish beef industry must be 'taken care of' if any Mercosur deal is hammered out in the coming days.

Speaking at an EU digital summit in Estonia today, Varadkar said the Irish beef must be taken care of and farmers must have a level playing field to compete on.

His comments come as its reported that the European Commission has offered a 70,000t annual allotment of beef for South American beef, a move that is being objected to by 11 EU countries including Ireland.

Varadkar said he is someone who is always in favour of free trade, as he is head of a country that has benefited from free trade.

"I would like to see a deal with Mercosur," he said and one that is as successful as the recent trade deal with Canada, but said that farmers and animal standards must be protected.

"My view is that free trade makes everyone better off. But its not an absolute thing. We have to take care of the beef industry which could be very exposed depending on the outcome of Brexit."

He also said that he wants to make sure there is no diminution of animal welfare and health standards and that Irish farmers can compete on a level playing field.

He said he would make these points to the EU Commission President Juncker when he meets him later today.

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Negotiations between between the EU and South America’s Mercosur bloc are set to take a major step forward next week with reports from Brussels that the EU Commission have agreed a new substantial offer on beef.

However, 11 European Union Member States, including Ireland, have proposed postponing a farm trade offer to the Mercosur bloc of South American countries, until there are rules around unfair competition.


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