'Would you fancy your chances more with an agricultural commissioner from Malta?'

Minister Creed defends Phil Hogan's involvement in Mercosur trade agreement

European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Reuters
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has defended the EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan's involvement in the recently agreed EU-Mercosur deal.

Speaking in the Dail today, where the Government and Mr Hogan came under severe criticism over the possible impact of the Mercosur deal on beef farmers, Minister Creed defended the EU Agriculture Commissioner.

Commissioner Hogan came under fire from a number of politicians, including Michael Fitzmaurice who said the deal would impact of far more than the 100,000 beef farmers in Ireland.

"We need to believe that people are more important than winking and nodding to other bureaucrats in Europe that go out and do deals. We have to stand up for our people in each part of the country and now is our hour of need.

"People talk about Mercs for meat. The fist thing we need to do before we talk about climate is talk about people. talk about families, talk about livelihoods, talk about living, talk about communities, talk about areas in rural Ireland that need to survive."

Minister Creed asked those criticising Mr Hogan if they "would you fancy your chances more with an agricultural commissioner from Malta or from Bulgaria?"

Minister Creed also said Fine Gael would not be supporting the motion, put forward by Sinn Fein to reject the deal, but said it has facilitated an interesting debate.

"The motion won’t make one iota of a difference, legally to whether a deal that is not on the table now ultimately becomes a reality or not.

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"It is a meaningless vote. Because we are not at a stage where we have a legal agreement in front of us.

"What we have, and it is worth bearing in mind, a deal negotiated by outgoing trade Commissioner, approved by the outgoing Commission, which has not been ratified by a single Council of Ministers, hasn’t been approved by the European Parliament, hasn’t been ratified by a single government of any Member State or indeed any National Parliament."

What will happen between now and the final transposition of this headline agreement into a legal document, he said, is an opportunity to influence what the detail is of the headline agreement that has been put in front of us.

"This is not a done deal and I have been at pains to say repeatedly it is not a done deal in terms of the proposal and we should collaboratively use our intervening period over the next two years to shape the detail.

"The difference between the principle of deciding to buy a house and signing the detailed contract are very, very different realities. And what we have an opportunity to do now in that intervening period is influence the detail of this agreement."

Ireland, he said, is privileged to be part of a trading bloc that negotiates trade agreements and being part a large trading bloc allows us to be top of the queue.

Ireland export to 180 countries around the world and trade agreements are the basis on which we do that, he said.

In terms of negotiations, he said, it is a two-way street and the proposals in front of us includes a really difficult deal for the Irish beef sector and we need to influence the detail of that so we mitigate, frustrate, thwart the ambition of Mercosur countries exporting beef to he EU.

"It is imperative we use that time wisely."

If we set the standards for the Mercosur countries similar to the ones we have to meet then we have a level playing pitch, he said.

Then we can ensure it is fair trade, not just free trade, he said.

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