Calls have been made for “no effort to be spared” in protecting Irish and European beef producers to the maximum possible extent from the potential negative impacts of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, explained that careful consideration must be given during the process of finalisation of legal texts that will now follow the recent political agreement.
In the course of a debate at yesterday’s Agrifish Council, Minister Creed again drew attention to the “potentially very damaging” impact of the EU-Mercosur agreement on a “delicately balanced” EU beef market that is further overshadowed by the threat of “a very negative” Brexit outcome.
EU and Irish beef producers have demonstrated that they do not fear free trade agreements, but they also want to see fair trade agreements.
“I have highlighted our concerns on many occasions about the potential impact of a Mercosur agreement, and I continue to harbour such concerns following the recent political agreement.
“The agreement provides additional access to the EU beef market at a time when incomes are under extreme pressure in the sector.
I believe it is essential that the commission uses the period ahead to stitch-in as many legal and other protections as possible in areas such as food safety and animal welfare standards, quota segmentation and sustainability commitments.
The council also discussed the proposed new “green architecture” for the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), and the current situation in relation to African swine fever (ASF).
Noting that Ireland supports all the proposed new elements, Minister Creed said: “These elements must all be simple to operate, and member states must have sufficient flexibility to ensure their effectiveness”.
Finally, at the meeting, Minister Creed emphasised the need to maintain the CAP budget in order to support the increased environmental ambition for the CAP.