Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 March 2018

Hogan on mission to Canada to promote new trade deal

European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Francois/Reuters
European Commissioner Phil Hogan. Photo: Francois/Reuters

Sarah Collins

EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan is on a mission in Canada this week to promote a recently signed trade deal with the country.

He is also due to make a quick detour to the US, where a similar but much larger trade deal has been on ice since the elections of US president Donald Trump.

His colleague, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström, met US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross in Washington last week following his more positive signals about a transatlantic deal.

She said then that "there is still a case" for a deal but that both sides "need a bit more time to see where we are" and to "clarify that both sides share an ambition to find solutions to difficult issues".

Mr Hogan also warned against getting too excited about the development and said there was still considerable uncertainty over what the US wanted.

"It is very unclear what the US trade policy is as yet," Mr Hogan told reporters in Brussels ahead of the trip. "There isn't any evidence of a settled policy."

Mr Hogan will not be meeting newly confirmed agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue on his trip but will speak to him by phone this week, he said..

Meanwhile, the EU is focusing on trade deals with Japan and Mexico - one of the parties to the Nafta trade agreement, which US president Donald Trump's last week promised to review.

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"I see this new trade rhetoric - if not political policy - of the United States in terms of protectionism as a wonderful opportunity for the European Union," Mr Hogan said.

"We have, I think, about two years now of a head start on the US administration in trying to achieve these objectives."

One of the deals the EU has been trying to pursue for more than a decade is a deal with the Mercosur bloc of countries, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

The EU had wanted to wind up the deal this year, though many see that goal as impossible as progress has been slow so far, with disagreements over beef plaguing the talks, which were reopened last year after a years-long freeze.

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy met the president of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, in Montevideo last week to push the deal, saying there was a "magnificent time" for the deal.

He added that the EU would work "intensely" to find agreement before the end of the year.

Mr Hogan said a deal can be done this year, but only if "conditions are right". A further round of talks will take place in Brussels before the summer.

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