Farm Ireland

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Opposition growing to Mercosur trade talks

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The resumption of trade talks between the EU and the Mercosur trading block of South American states is provoking growing opposition.

Last week a group of 10 EU member states, led by France and including Ireland, indicated that they were opposed to the move. They warned that the trade talks sent "a highly negative signal" to Europe's struggling farm sector.

Discussions on a new trade deal between the EU and Mercosur, which includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, have gathered pace over the past few months.

A summit involving EU heads of state and their Mercosur counterparts is due to take place in Madrid today. It is understood the agenda for the trade negotiations will be finalised at this summit.

However, there are mountingfears that a trade deal will hit the EU farm sector. The trade talks were discussed at yesterday's Farm Council meeting in Brussels, where France emerged as a vocal opponent of the initiative.

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith has also expressed deep concern over a possible trade deal with the South American states. Minister Smith missed yesterday's council meeting due to the flight restrictions imposed as a result of the volcanic ash cloud but Ireland was represented at council.

IFA president John Bryan has called on the new EU Agriculture Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, to resist any move to reopen the Mercosur negotiations.

Mr Bryan said the EU summit in Spain was the first real test of the new Commission to defend the family farm structure across Europe.

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"This bilateral deal on the table at the EU summit in Spain is an attempt by the Commission to agree a WTO deal on beef by the back door," Mr Bryan claimed.

Mr Bryan said the Commission could not ignore the implications of a Mercosur deal involving Brazilian beef, a sector he claimed was responsible for destroying 2m hectares of rainforest each year.

The IFA president said the EU Commission's own Food and Veterinary Office had catalogued a series of reports which highlight the consistent failure of Brazilian beef to meet EU standards.

"Brazil fails to meet the basic European producer and consumer standards on food safety, animal identification and traceability, animal health and disease control," Mr Bryan said.

"By accepting Brazilian beef imports, the EU Commission is placing European consumers and the important EU livestock sector at an unacceptable and unnecessary risk," he maintained.

A broad-based trade agreement is being sought by the EU with Mercosur.

It is estimated that a deal could increase annual EU exports into Mercosur by up to €4.5bn.

The worry for Irish farmers is that Mercosur is expected to benefit from a similar increase in exports into the EU.

Irish Independent