Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

Irish nervy as Mandelson tipped for top job at WTO

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Peter Mandelson, the bogeyman of Irish farmers during the summer of 2008, could be set to make a dramatic comeback.

The former European trade commissioner has been backed by British prime minister David Cameron to replace Pascal Lamy as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) director general next year.

Mr Mandelson, once dubbed the Prince of Darkness, was lambasted by Irish and other European farm organisations prior to the collapse of WTO talks in August 2008.

Farm leaders maintained that the concessions which Mandelson agreed to as Europe's trade commissioner would have had disastrous consequences for farmers across the EU.

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, admitted last week that Mr Mandelson was among those mentioned to replace Mr Lamy.

However, Mr Coveney said Mr Mandelson would not be a popular choice given the poor relationship he had with Irish farmers in the past.

Some observers have claimed the British government's interest in Mr Mandelson was little more than politics; Mr Cameron having opposed the unofficial campaign of his predecessor Gordon Brown to fill the vacancy as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

However, with French finance minister Christine Lagarde the current eurozone front-runner for the IMF post, an Anglo-French deal could see Mr Mandelson land the WTO job as part of any trade-off.

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ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin said he was alarmed at reports that Mr Mandelson was a candidate to take over as director-general at the WTO.

"To borrow a phrase from the late Garret Fitzgerald, he has a flawed pedigree as far as farmers are concerned," Mr Gimartin said.

"Mr Mandelson went out on a limb to get a deal done at the WTO Doha round negotiations in Geneva in 2008, when in the position of EU Trade Commissioner, contrary to the wishes of the EU Farm Council and in our view, he exceeded his mandate," the ICSA president said.

"Putting him into the top job now can be seen as a last desperate attempt to re-start the talks, which are faltering.

"The reality is that countries such as the USA and India realise that the price for a free trade deal is too high and too risky and this is a view shared by European farmers, if not by the EU Commission."

Indo Farming