The Irish farming reaction to the Canadian and European multimillion free trade deal signed today has been positive, however significant concerns have been raised with regard to the beef sector in particular.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed the formal agreement today, after intense negotiation over several months. It is the first trade agreement between the EU and a G8 country and it removes 99 per cent of trade tariffs between the two economies.
According to the IFA, the deal involves the export of 30,000 tonnes of specialised EU cheeses to Canada and the importation of 45,000 tonnes of carcass equivalent beef with 50 per cent frozen and 75,000 tonnes of pork meat into the EU.
A joint Canada-EU study released in 2008 said an agreement would increase bilateral trade by €25.7bn, or about C$35bn.
The deal also presents new market opportunities in the specialised cheese for the Irish Dairy Board, the IFA has said.
While welcoming the deal, the IFA president John Bryan also warned the European Commission that it cannot repeat the market access concessions on agriculture announced in the EU-Canada today in their forthcoming negotiations with the US.
“Given their magnitude and scale, it would have a far deeper and more damaging impact on our livestock sector,” he said.
Bryan was also particularly concerned about the impact of today’s agreement on the beef sector saying. “Under this deal, the European Commission cannot allow Canada to undermine the European beef market by cherry-picking the most valuable end of the trade with steak cuts.”
He pointed out that there are substantial differences between the food safety and production standards in Europe and North America.
“Europe cannot agree to any imports that fail to meet EU standards on the critical issues of food safety, traceability, environmental protection and animal welfare,” he stressed.
ICMSA president John Comer welcomed elements of the agreement. In particular the proposal to increase the EU’s share of Canada’s cheese import quota from 13,000 tonnes to 30,000 tonnes.
“This will mean that there will be additional outlets for Irish dairy produce and with quota abolition in 2015, additional outlets for dairy products is certainly welcome given the likely expansion in Ireland.”
However Comer also stressed “the proposed access to the European market for Canadian beef product is a concern for Irish beef producers”. Already, there are tightening margins in the beef sector and increased supply could negatively impact on prices in future years, he added.
Also wary of today’s agreement was ICSA Ireland beef chairman Edmond Phelan. He said the negatives could outweigh the positives for Irish beef farmers, because the deal allows for up to 40,000 tonnes of Canadian beef and 70,000 tonnes of Canadian pork into EU markets.
“I am concerned that imports of cheaper Canadian meat have the potential to undermine the price of Irish beef in key export markets within the EU. While there may be some upside in terms of exports, the likelihood is that there will be more pain than gain for Irish farmers.”
Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton said it was a positive move for Ireland’s export markets. “The deal is good news for the economy and nearly every business sector in Ireland will benefit.”
Recognising that the new trade arrangements will give rise to concerns among farmers the Minister Bruton noted: “I appreciate that there are concerns among Irish farmers in relation to this deal. The concessions obtained on dairy are welcome and potentially valuable for Irish farmers. In relation to beef, it is important to point out that it will take some time for increased competition to become evident.”