Further blow for beef farmers as Macron backs Mercosur deal

Macron says 'good' EU-Mercosur trade deal meets French demands

French President Emmanuel Macron talks with a breeder as he visits the International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, February 23, 2019. Julien De Rosa/Pool via Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron talks with a breeder as he visits the International Agriculture Fair (Salon de l'Agriculture) at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, February 23, 2019. Julien De Rosa/Pool via Reuters
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Irish beef farmers reeling after the EU signed a trade deal between the European Union and the Mercosur group of South American countries suffered another blow as French President Emmanuel Macron backed the deal.

Farmers had hoped that France a major EU player with a strong farm lobby might oppose the deal.

However, despite France  regularly expressing concern over the risk of a surge in South American agricultural exports to Europe, President Macron welcomed provisions protecting European geographical origin certification for food products and limiting Mercosur exports of sugar and beef.

“I consider that this agreement, at this stage, is a good one given that the demands that we made have all been taken into account by the negotiators,” he said during a news conference at the end of a summit of the G20 nations in Japan.

Macron had this week threatened not to sign any EU-Mercosur trade deal if Brazil pulled out of the Paris climate accord.

The French president welcomed the commitment of Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro to the Paris accord at the G20 summit, which he said allowed the final communique to reiterate the group’s support for the climate agreement with the exception of the United States.

The EU and Mercosur agreed a free trade treaty on Friday, concluding two decades of talks between the blocs.

Speaking after the announcement, Minister 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: 

Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed said that was very disappointed that the 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.”

The beef tariff rate quota of 99,000 tonnes agreed is considerably less than has been sought by the Mercosur countries, who at one point were demanding a quota of 300,000 tonnes. 

The deal will now go through legal refinement, which could take up to two years, before the process of ratification by the European Trade Council, the European Parliament and ultimately Member States begins.

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has warned the Agriculture Minister to ensure that Irish farmers interests are represented in Europe and called on him to oppose any ratification of the Mercosur deal due to the fact the full impact of Brexit has not yet emerged.

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.

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