Farm Ireland

Saturday 18 November 2017

New markets crucial for Ireland

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Sarah Collins

Trade deals with the US, Mexico and Canada will be  crucial for Ireland's economy as it tries to mitigate the effects of Brexit.

It's significant that Taoiseach Enda Kenny (below) met with the head of the Irish Farmers' Association, Joe Healy, before an EU summit in Brussels last weekend to discuss agro-food industry's concerns about Brexit.

But it's still unclear when EU negotiators will get around to talking about trade, with the focus firmly on first working out a divorce deal.

Ireland and its allies in Denmark and the Netherlands - as well as the UK itself - want to start those trade talks as early as possible in the Brexit process, but are backing the EU stance that a deal must be done on citizens, money and the Irish border beforehand.

"We've all said what we want is as close to what we have at the moment," Mr Kenny told reporters after the summit in Brussels.

He was referring to tariff-free access for EU and UK traders and minimal administrative obstacles or delays at potential customs posts.

"It is quite difficult," Mr Kenny added. "It is too early to say what the outcome will be."

EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier believes a divorce deal can be done by the autumn, but it will be up to EU leaders, including Mr Kenny, to decide when enough progress has been made on the three priority issues to allow trade talks to begin.

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Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed last week outlined his plans to identify new markets for Irish food and drink exports, with a focus on Asia, North America and Africa.

Representatives from the Irish Food Board, Dawn Meats Group and Ornua Cooperative are currently on the road with US agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan in Canada, where he is promoting a recently completed - but not finally ratified - trade deal with the country.

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