Coveney says he has raised Irish concerns over possible Mercosur trade deal

The Minster for Agriculture, Simon Coveney has said that he has repeatedly raised Irish concerns at EU level in relation to the potentially serious impact that a Mercosur deal would have on the Irish and EU agriculture sector and, in particular, on the beef sector.

Responding to questioning on the issue in the Dail this week, he said the Commission’s own analysis of the worst case scenario would see production levels drop by some 150,000t, with the producer price for beef falling by as much as 8%.

Ireland, he said, is unique in that it exports over 90% of its beef production to the EU, and the entry of a very competitive player such as Mercosur would, therefore, have a potentially damaging impact on our market.

Meat Industry Ireland has said that 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.

Minster Coveney also said that it important to note that, in the case of Mercosur, EU and Irish beef would be replaced by beef produced in a less carbon efficient manner.

“I am in regular contact with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan on this issue. I have highlighted Ireland’s concerns with him both bilaterally and around the table at the Council of Agriculture Ministers in recent months.

“With my Department I have also been working closely with colleagues in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation – who take the lead in negotiating international trade agreements – and Minister Bruton has raised the matter with Trade Commissioner Cecilia Maelstrom.

“In addition, we have been working with other Member State colleagues in both agriculture and trade formations in order to build effective opposition to any potentially negative developments,” he said.

Minster Coveney highlighted that as recently as last week, Ireland joined forces with eight other Member States in calling on the Commission to consider very carefully any potential exchange of offers, given the current market situation in the agriculture sector, to update its analysis of the individual and cumulative impacts of Mercosur and other negotiations, and to exclude any reference to beef access from any offer under consideration.

“I will continue to keep this issue at the top of the EU agenda,” he said this week.