Biden administration ‘could bring relief to Irish agri-food sector’

A change in administration in the US “presents an opportunity to reverse the trend of protectionism that has emerged in recent years in EU-US trade”, according to Irish MEP Colm Markey.

Commenting on the matter, the Midlands North-West MEP said: “The last four to five years have seen a move to greater protectionism with both the Trump administration and Brexit threatening free trade.

“I believe the new Biden administration could be the breath of fresh air needed to allow for a reversal of this trend,” he added.

The Louth farmer highlighted that, in recent years, there has been an escalation in the 16-year disagreement over state aid provided to US-based airline manufacturer Boeing and its European competitor Airbus.

The escalation in 2019 saw the US seeking permission from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to retaliate against the EU for the support it provided to Airbus, resulting in the US placing tariffs on a wide range of EU goods.

Markey, a member of the EU Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, pointed out that this ongoing trade dispute has had a significant impact on Ireland with Irish trade caught in the crossfire.

“Since 2019, a 25% tariff has been placed on certain Irish products, with dairy being particularly affected. With reciprocal tariffs placed on animal feed coming into Ireland, this has affected the beef, pork, and poultry sectors.

It beggars belief that this has been allowed to endure, especially in the context of Brexit and Covid-19.

Commenting on last week’s application of tariffs on cognac and non-sparkling wines, Markey described it as “a worrying regression” but claimed he is hopeful that it represented “the last stand of a dying regime”.

The Fine Gael MEP further called on the incoming Biden administration to reverse this trend.

“The upcoming change of US administration offers a unique opportunity to put the protectionist policies of the past behind us and to look towards beneficial trading arrangements that will open up the US market to the Irish agri-food sector,” Markey said.

“The inclusion of the agri-food sector in this dispute has resulted in pointless damage to our respective economies.

Approximately 86% of EU butter exports to the US come from Ireland, so the inclusion of butter in products subject to these tariffs disproportionally affects and disadvantages Irish dairy producers. A common sense approach needs to be taken to end these tit-for-tat tariffs.

Markey has co-signed a letter in the European Parliament urging the European Commission to introduce urgent measures to help all sectors affected by tariffs placed on EU produce by the US, and for diplomatic efforts to continue.

“Enough is enough. It’s time to build on the positive sentiment expressed by US President elect Biden towards Ireland and Europe as a whole and usher in an era of mutual prosperity for all,” Markey concluded.