Mercosur letter: Varadkar outlines Irish farmer fears to Juncker

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has outlined his “deep concerns” over a possible trade deal with the Mercosur trading block in South America in a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

The letter, seen by AgriLand, is co-signed by four European leaders, including the Taoiseach, and outlines the particular exposure of the European agricultural sector if a deal goes ahead.

“The question of import into the union of beef, poultry, sugar and ethanol is particularly sensitive to us,” the letter reads.

The import quotas currently negotiated for beef imports could threaten this fragile sector in our countries, particularly against the background of the potentially dramatic and negative impact of a disorderly Brexit on EU markets.

“The cumulative effects of quotas negotiated in various trade agreements signed by the union can ultimately destabilise production and the agricultural sector,” the four European leaders warned.

They continued: “In order to preserve the activity of our farmers and protect our rural economy on the one hand, and to guarantee our citizens quality products on the other hand, several elements need to be taken into consideration in the negotiation with Mercosur.”

These elements include:

  • The quotas currently mentioned for beef, poultry, pork, sugar and ethanol must not be increased further;
  • Guarantees concerning compliance with the sanitary, phytosanitary, animal welfare and environmental standards, in order to have fair production conditions for all food products sold in the European Union, and in particular for quality meat;
  • Certification and control of quotas must be exercised on the importer’s side, i.e. on the EU’s side;
  • A segmentation of quotas between high value-added beef parts and other parts must be achieved, ensuring that the import of high-quality parts is kept to a minimum.

“In addition, due to the vulnerability of those sectors, we would seek reassurances in order to strictly monitor and mitigate the possible negative impact on the agricultural sectors,” the leaders added.

The letter concluded with: “We also need to ensure policy coherence between the EU’s trade policy objectives and its climate change responsibilities, by ensuring that beef and other meat imports fully respect the EU’s environmental norms and standards.”

The three other leaders who co-signed the letter were French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.