EU-US trade deal will 'hang beef sector out to dry': ICSA

ICSA president Patrick Kent.
ICSA president Patrick Kent.
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The potential for losses of between €25m and €45m for the beef sector from any trade deal between Europe and the US has provoked a sharp response from the Irish farm organisations.

The findings were carried in an analysis of the impact on Ireland of a trade agreement between the EU and US which was undertaken by Copenhagen Economics.

While the analysis found that any agreement in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations would be positive for the dairy sector and for the export for processed foods, the beef industry would face stiffer competition from the US beef imports.

Reacting to the findings of the report, ICSA president Patrick Kent said such an outcome from the proposed deal would be "completely intolerable" and described it as a "wake-up call" for Irish farmers.

Mr Kent said the ICSA would not accept the beef sector being "hung out to dry" for the benefit of other sectors.

"The spin on this, of course, is that the agreement would benefit the Irish economy overall, but is that justification for sacrificing any one sector? We are now calling on Minister Bruton and Commissioner Malmström to guarantee that the beef sector will be protected under the proposed agreement."

IFA president Eddie Downey said IFA had the association had raised detailed concerns regarding the TTIP proposals and these have to be "fully addressed" in any final trade deal.

Mr Downey said that when agricultural imports from the US are factored in the Copenhagen Economics report, overall gains for the Irish agriculture sector are marginal. He said the beef, pork and poultry sectors were particularly vulnerable.

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In a clear warning to the Government, the IFA president said that they must immediately get involved in the negotiations to ensure that the threats to the beef, pork and poultry from a TTIP deal were addressed using limited tariff reductions, quotas for imports, and equivalence of standards in any final deal.

Commenting on the report, the ICMSA's John Comer said losses identified in beef, pork and poultry should be minimised through the assigning of sensitive product status to these products and the rejection of hormone beef.

The report found that the balance of trade in dairy produce would improve by around €90m if TTIP was agreed.

In the beef sector, a TTIP deal would result in a 1-3pc contraction in total output from the beef herd which would cost farmers up to €45m annually.

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