MEP outlines concerns: Agri concessions ‘top of agenda’ for NZ negotiators

MEP for the Midlands-North West Chris MacManus asked the European Commission as to whether it is planning to allow increased beef imports from New Zealand.

MacManus, speaking today, Friday, July 10, following a meeting of the European Parliament Agricultural Committee, said:

“I took the opportunity at today’s meeting to directly ask the European Commission whether it intended to deliver another blow to Irish farmers, in the form of an increased quota for New Zealand beef arriving into the EU.

Free trade talks are ramping up between the EU and New Zealand, and agricultural concessions are top of the agenda for New Zealand’s negotiators.

“In response to my question, the commission would only say it is aware of the sensitivities around beef and lamb.”

Continuing, the MEP said that the commission’s “refusal to rule out an increased beef quota” for New Zealand will come as “very worrying news” to Irish farmers.

“Only a few days ago, the British Government published its strategic approach to trade deals with New Zealand and Australia.

The document says it intends to liberalise 80% of trade in the next 3 years between the countries, and it pulls no punches when it comes to who is going to pay the price.

McManus quoted the document as saying “the negative impact on Northern Ireland is attributable to the agriculture and semi-processed foods sectors”.

He added: “I have no doubt farmers south of the border, who are heavily dependent on inter-island trade, will also suffer a substantial loss of market share in Britain.

The MEP outlined his worry for the sector, noting negative factors including: “Irish farmers’ reduced share on the British market, coupled with increased competition in the EU market, from Australasia and the Mercosur countries.”

“Publicly the commission says it is ready to support farmers in times of crises, while privately it sells them out in back room trade negotiations,” he claimed.

Agricultural access to the EU market must never be a deal sweetener to get agreements in other sectors over the line.

“Sinn Féin will fight any deal which undermines Irish farmers’ ability to receive a fair price for their product on the market,” McManus concluded.