EU-South America trade deal rewards 'climate change deniers' – Dáil told
The EU-Mercosur deal – which opens the way for cheap South American meat imports – will signal the death knell for the already embattled Irish beef sector, the Dáil has heard.
Criticising the EU landmark trade deal with Brazil, Argentina, Urguay and Paraguay, Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, also said the deal will reward “climate change deniers.”
Mr Martin said the Government had quietly caved in to the deal which allows imports of 99,000t of beef, 180,000t of poultry and 25,000t of pigmeat.
The Fianna Fáil leader said the deal was outdated because it ignored the impact on the beef sector in the wake of Brexit. He said that Europe is allowing the imports of beef being produced in an environmentally unsustainable way while Irish beef producers were among the most efficient producers in the world for traceable meat.
The Government also came under pressure from Sinn Féin and Rural Independent Group TDs on the issue. But for the Government, Climate Change Minister, Richard Bruton, said the South American group of nations, known as Mercosur, were still obliged to comply with the Paris agreement tackling climate change – without that there would be no deal.
The Fianna Fáil leader said a hectare of rainforest in Brazil was being cleared every minute to create grazing land for cattle.
That “should be a showstopper for the mercosur deal”, he said.
But taking questions for the Taoiseach who is at an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels, Mr Bruton accused Mr Martin of “distorting the reality”. The Minister said if the parties did not comply with the Paris Agreement “there is no deal”.
Mr Bruton said the Government had been consistently concerned about the impact on the beef sector and that the initial demand was for 300,000 tonnes of beef. The Minister said everyone needed to step back and take time to consider the agreement in the round.
The Climate Change Minister said there were lots of opportunities for the Irish market through the deal including in the dairy sector, pharma, chemicals and food.
Sinn Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that Fianna Fáil signed the mandate for discussion on this agreement in 1999. Her party had consistently asked the Government for the past five years to quit the negotiations and the deal was a sell-out to Irish farm families.
Ms McDonald urged a binding Dáil vote against the deal.
But Mr Bruton said that Ms McDonald had consisttently opposed the EU-Canada agreement, an agreement with Japan, and another with Korea, and all of these deals had helped Ireland to diversify its trade links which would help offset Brexit.
Independent TD Michael Healy Rae said the Minister was “trying to sell the unsellable, you’re trying to defend the indefensible”.
“I’m appealing to you and the Taoiseach and the rest of the Ministers to wake up,” the Kerry TD said.