Farmers protest over 'sell out’ trade deal

Farmers protesting at the EU Commission offices. Pic: IFA Twitter
Farmers protesting at the EU Commission offices. Pic: IFA Twitter
A sign reading "Mercosur = a gift to multinationals" is pictured on a tractor during a protest by Belgian farmers outside a meeting of European Union agriculture ministers in Brussels, Belgium on Monday. Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Farmers are protesting at the EU Commission offices today over what they call a ‘Sell Out’ trade deal with the South American group of Mercosur countries.

IFA President Joe Healy said they are there to oppose EU Commission plans to sell out Irish farming in a deal with the devil that is Brazil and its new President Bolsonaro, he said.

“It is totally unacceptable that the Commission is prepared to sacrifice Irish and European farmers, but they are also giving the green light to the further destruction of rainforests. Farmers are sick of the double speak from the EU Commission which lectures us on climate change, but is prepared do a deal with a country with a climate destruction agenda,” he said.

“The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office has volumes of reports which expose in stark terms the failure of the Brazilian authorities, in particular, to meet EU standards on animal welfare, traceability, food safety and the environment,” he said.

“We hear a lot about the size of the Irish cattle herd, which is under seven million.  Yet Brazil have 230 million cattle, with a further 53 million in Argentina. The EU Commission will have no credibility if they proceed with this deal,” he said

“Irish farmers are rightly asking how the EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan can stand idly by and allow EU negotiators to show such a blatant disregard for EU standards,” he said.

It comes as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and three other European leaders sent a letter to EU Commission President Jean Claude Junker highlighting their “deep concern” on a potential EU trade deal with Mercosur being passed next week that could “threaten agriculture” in Europe.

However, sealing a free trade agreement with South American bloc Mercosur after 20 years of talks is the European Union’s top priority, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom has said.

EU negotiations with the Mercosur group of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, the world’s fourth-largest trade bloc, have intensified since Europe’s trade talks with the United States were frozen after Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory.

However, EU nerves about a surge of beef imports and Mercosur hesitation about opening up some industrial sectors, such as cars, have meant past deadlines have come and gone. A deal may be close, but just beyond reach.

A section of the letter sent by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other EU leaders to the EU Commission outlining their concerns over a possible Mercosur deal.
A section of the letter sent by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other EU leaders to the EU Commission outlining their concerns over a possible Mercosur deal.

European Trade Commissioner Malmstrom said she did not want to specify a new deadline, but believed an agreement could be struck during the term of the current European Commission, which runs until the end of October.

“There are some complicated matters remaining - agriculture and a few others ... I think there is a window now to close this, during this Commission. I will absolutely do my utmost. This is priority number one right now,” she told an event hosted by the Bruegel think-tank in Brussels.

Malmstrom said the two sides were getting closer, with offers exchanged already on less controversial farm products.

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