The EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan has said that European negotiators are “very sensitive” to agriculture in the ongoing Mercusor negotiations.

However, he did not go as far to say that agriculture would be protected if a deal is struck between the EU and the South American Mercusor countries.

Hogan said that he would take the concerns expressed by the 20 agriculture ministers at the Council of Ministers meeting to the Trade Commissioner.

“I share the concerns of EU Council of Agriculture Ministers about the timing of this particular initiative in relation to our Mercosur negotiations.

“We will be conveying the view of the Agriculture Ministers…and asking her (Cecilia Malmström) to continue the sensitivity of the offer that will be made.”

He said he was conscious of the difficulties in the dairy and pigmeat sectors.

Hogan said it was not just the issue of the timing of the Mercosur negotiations, but also the potential for tariff rate quotas to be applied at this stage of the negations.

“I think it is fair to say is in support of trade outcomes and free trade agreements.

“But there are indications from the Ministers…that they would prefer to be more strategic in regards to sensitive products area at the moment.

“On Mercosur, I can assure you the Ministers were very sensitive to any offer that would be made in any free trade negotiation that would enter into even greater difficulty for our sensitive products like milk and beef and pork.”

Agriculture, he said, is on the defensive in these negotiations, a position that would well known for a considerable number of years.

But, he said it would be Trade Ministers of the European Union that are the chief negotiators in relation to Mercusor.

“We will be asking our Agriculture Ministers to engage to ensure that they have a consistent approach to the timing of any offer that will be made and to respect the market place for our agricultural products at the moment, particularly dairy and pork.”