Calls for Ireland to reject Mercosur deal struck by EU

  • Deal will allow an extra 99,000t of beef from South America
  • Minister for Agriculture deeply concerned at the potential impact on the Irish beef sector
  • Bad deal for Ireland and for Irish farmers, says IFA
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farm organisations are calling on the government to reject the Mercosur trade deal, signed today by Europe and the South American trading bloc.

The deal comes after 20 years of negotiations but will have to be ratified by Member States and France has already threatened to veto the deal, if Brazil pulls out of the Paris climate accord.

Phil Hogan, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said agreement was fair and balanced deal with opportunities and benefits on both sides, including for Europe's farmers.

However, he conceded that the agreement also presents some challenges to European farmers. He said the European Commission will be available to help farmers meet these challenges.

"For this agreement to be a win-win, we will only open up to agricultural products from Mercosur with carefully managed quotas that will ensure that there is no risk that any product will flood the EU market and thereby threaten the livelihood of EU farmers.”

Speaking after the announcement, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said that while as a small open economy, Ireland was generally supportive of international trade deals, he was very concerned at the potential impact of elements of this particular deal on the beef sector: 

“I am very disappointed that this agreement includes a significant Tariff Rate Quota for South American beef, at a time when the beef sector in Europe is facing significant uncertainty because of Brexit.  We have made concerted efforts over a long period of time, to minimise the EU offer in terms of beef and while evidence of these efforts appears to have been reflected in the final offer,

"I am, nonetheless deeply concerned at the potential impact on the Irish beef sector.  There may be some opportunity for other agri food sectors such as dairy and for the drinks industry, but we will need to examine the text carefully to assess the full impact.”

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'Backroom deal with big business'

Irish farm organisations have reacted angrily to the deal, which will allow an extra 99,000t of beef from South America be imported into Europe.

This extra beef is on top of the current WTO tariff rate quotas (TRQs) and it's understood this deal will see fresh and frozen beef enter the EU with a 7.5pc tariff.

Reacting to the outcome of the trade talks with the South American trade bloc Mercosur, IFA President Joe Healy said EU negotiators have colluded in a deal that has sold out Irish and European farmers.

Joe Healy said “This is a bad deal for Ireland and for Irish farmers, it’s a bad deal for the environment and it’s a bad deal for EU standards and consumers.”

The IFA President called on the Taoiseach make it clear to Brussels that Ireland will not ratify this deal.

“While Commissioner Hogan has done much good work, when he looks back on his five-year term, he will have to consider this Commission sell-out as a low point. The ‘turning a blind eye’ approach to double standards and environmental degradation in Brazil is indefensible. It makes an utter mockery of the pledge that this EU Commission signed when it took up office in 2014 to uphold EU legislation,” he said.

“This deal represents a backroom deal with big business and kowtows to the likes of Mercedes and BMW in their drive to get cars into South America. It is a disgraceful and feeble sell out of a large part of our most valuable beef market to Latin American ranchers and factory farm units,” he said.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) President Pat McCormack said that the economic damage to Ireland’s multi-billion euro beef sector from cheap lower standard South American imports would be enormous.

He said set alongside the increasingly probable loss of our traditional British markets must mean that the Government was content to see Irish beef production fall into terminal decline. He also said that was the only conclusion that farmers would come to in the face of the Government’s inaction as this dual threat now loomed over a sector that was already struggling to get past hopelessly low margins for the primary producers.  

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