Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

EU-Canada trade deal part of 'perfect storm' for beef sector

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau

Sarah Collins

Everyone's favourite prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has hailed the European Parliament's recent approval of the EU-Canada trade deal.

He travelled to the Parliament's second seat in Strasbourg for the occasion, applauding the trade pact as a blueprint for the future.

But the deal has split Irish MEPs, with Independent Marian Harkin warning it was part of a "perfect storm" gathering over the beef sector, alongside Brexit and other EU trade deals.

Ms Harkin vote against the deal, as did Sinn Féin's three EU deputies and Independents Nessa Childers and Luke Ming Flanagan. Fine Gael's four MEPs voted in favour.

Ireland's 11th MEP, Brian Crowley, did not vote.

"There is a lot of talk about jobs created but nobody is looking at job destruction and the enormous challenges that will be faced by the beef industry," Ms Harkin said following the vote.

"This is a perfect storm for beef producers in an already depressed market," she said of the deal, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

The agreement will allow Canada an extra 50,000 tonnes of tariff-free beef exports to the EU.

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But it has been plagued by controversy and could yet be scuppered by national and some regional European parliaments, who need to approve it before it can come into force fully.

Ms Harkin urged the Dáil to "take account of the reality of the situation and deal with it" when it comes to vote for the Canada deal.

The head of Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia, who launched a successful challenge to CETA last year, said his parliament would not vote in favour unless its conditions were met.

Protests broke out in front of the Parliament's imposing glass headquarters in the French city last week, with transparency and green activists warning the deal was undemocratic.

They say a system of private investor courts will allow multinationals to hold sway over governments, and fear the EU's high health and environmental standards will suffer.

"Coupled with other EU trade deals coming down the line, CETA will be devastating for Irish agriculture, farming families and rural communities," Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said.

A European Commission impact study last year said the beef sector would be the hardest hit by future EU trade deals, particular with the South American Mercosur bloc.

Talks on Mercosur will resume in March in Buenos Aires, though beef quotas will not be discussed.

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