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Wednesday 21 February 2018

Irish farmers slam EU trade deal with Canada

Under the Canada deal, an extra 50,000 tonnes of beef a year will be allowed on to the EU market, tariff free, from 2022. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM)
Under the Canada deal, an extra 50,000 tonnes of beef a year will be allowed on to the EU market, tariff free, from 2022. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir (BELGIUM)

Sarah Collins

Irish farmers have joined the ranks of those criticising a beleaguered EU trade deal with Canada.

A delegation from the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) travelled to Brussels last week to ask the EU to reconsider duty-free access for beef under future trade deals.

They say the Canada deal, and potential draft deals with the US and the South America Mercosur bloc of countries, will flood the EU with beef it doesn't need, eating into Ireland's export share.

Under the Canada deal, an extra 50,000 tonnes of beef a year will be allowed on to the EU market, tariff free, from 2022.

Ireland's beef exports last year amounted to 500,000 tonnes, half of which went to the UK.

But the IFA has warned that European beef consumption is falling and says the EU needs to do more to protect its farmers, particularly from products that don't meet its high standards.

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan is to launch an EU dairy promotion programme
EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan is to launch an EU dairy promotion programme

It is not clear how much beef will be allowed into the EU under the draft US and Mercosur deals, though the European Commission will publish a "cumulative impact assessment" on farmers of all its trade deals next month.

The IFA says Mercosur countries - particularly its biggest beef producer, Brazil - fail to meet EU standards on traceability, animal health and welfare, hormone use and environmental controls.

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"A Mercosur trade deal would be unequivocally negative for Irish and European agriculture and would particularly damage Ireland's important beef sector," it said.

They want beef, sheep and pig meat designated as sensitive products and duty-free access to EU markets limited or eliminated under future trade deals.

EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan is to launch a promotion programme for EU dairy, pigmeat and beef products, to alert consumers to their "high quality and sustainability".

The IFA visit came the same week the Canada deal was vetoed by Belgium's French-speaking region of Wallonia over fears it will dilute the bloc's labour, safety and environmental standards and hand multinationals too much power to sue governments.

The Belgian parliament can't give the go-ahead for the deal until Walloon parliament reverses the veto - unlike Dáil, which is not hamstrung by the Seanad's rejection of the deal earlier this month.

The EU wants to sign it at a summit with Canadian premier Justin Trudeau on Thursday, and is optimistic that it can still get Wallonia on board despite the breakdown in talks last week.

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