Meat Industry Ireland (MII) the body representing the meat processing sector in Ireland warned of a significant new push at Brussels level for a trade deal with Mercosur countries.

It says the deal could be very ‘damaging’ to the Irish meat sector, beef in particular but also for pigmeat and poultry meat.

Cormac Healy, Director of Meat Industry Ireland says there is no benefit to the Irish agri-food sector from a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) and any benefits to the wider economy are questionable.

However, he said increased access to the European market for lower priced South American beef, pigmeat and poultry meat will undermine the Irish livestock and meat sector.

“MII questions why the European Commission is so eager to progress a trade deal with Mercosur, a region which has clearly shown, over the years, its inability to operate as a functioning trading bloc or customs union.

“The EU should instead concentrate its efforts on concluding a free trade agreement with Japan, which could deliver some benefit to EU agri-food exports,” said Healy.

He said the Irish Government must ensure that the agriculture sector is not used as a bargaining chip in any new Mercosur negotiations.

MII welcomes Minister Coveney’s comments at the recent Agriculture Council meeting on the dangers posed by a Mercosur trade deal.

It says it will also be seeking an urgent meeting with Minister Bruton to outline its concerns on the potential of an EU giveaway in renewed negotiations with the Mercosur bloc.