Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has set out key principles that in his view should inform the negotiation and implementation of EU trade agreements with third countries.

The minister was speaking during the course of an informal meeting of agriculture and fisheries ministers last night (Monday, January 25).

Minister McConalogue emphasised that such agreements “must be balanced, and must be based on thorough analysis and assessment, including in relation to their cumulative impact, particularly on sensitive sectors such as beef”.

Expanding on this, the minister said: “It is essential that we have balanced agreements, which serve both our offensive and our defensive interests, for example in striking the right balance between the protection of sensitive products and securing increased market access for exported products.

They must also ensure that there is a level playing field in relation to, for example, the environmental sustainability of production systems in the EU and in our trading partners.

Highlighting the importance that the cumulative impact of multiple trade agreements is fully taken into account, the minister said:

“For example, throughout the Mercosur negotiations, we consistently called for the European Commission’s 2016 study of cumulative impacts to be updated in relation to sensitive products.

“Market access offers to countries currently engaged in negotiations with the EU should be fully informed by the findings of this updated study, which will be published shortly.”

Making further particular reference to the EU-Mercosur agreement, Minister McConalogue stated:

With regard to Mercosur, I want to emphasise my concerns once again about the negative impact on the agriculture sector, and in particular on the beef sector. It is also very important that the sustainability chapter of the agreement is respected and rigorously enforced.

Ministers also discussed the ongoing Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) negotiations.

Supporting the increased environmental ambition of the CAP, Minister McConalogue called for appropriate flexibility for Member States in the drafting of their CAP Strategic Plans and interventions, including eco-schemes.

“We need to avoid overly-prescriptive, ‘one size fits all’ outcomes,” the minister concluded.