That Dáil Éireann——
with concern the political failure of the Government to have non-trade issues debated in the context of the World Trade Organisation Talks;
the concessions already made to the WTO by the EU in CAP reforms in 2003;
the failure of the Government to honour its own commitments in this regard as outlined in the Programme for Government;
the fact that the current proposals would devastate Irish agriculture and in particular would decimate the Irish beef sector with the loss of thousands of jobs both at primary producer and processing level;
that the Common Agricultural Policy currently provides EU consumers with a safe and secure supply of food produced to the highest environmental and animal welfare standards;
the financial consequences to the Irish economy to be at least €4 billion p.a.; and
the current conflict between the WTO proposals as pursued by Commissioner Mandelson and Article 39.1 of the Treaty of Rome;
calls on the Government:
to mount a major political and diplomatic initiative to protect the Common Agricultural Policy and Irish agricultural interests;
to ensure that food safety and security, climate change, animal welfare and human health interests are priorities in the context of any future agreement in the WTO;
to immediately publish a sectoral analysis on the impact of the current proposals for Irish agriculture; and
to signal its willingness to use all necessary measures to defeat the current WTO proposals.
I wish to share time with Deputy Creed. This motion is in the name of Deputy Creed and other Fine Gael Deputies and deals with the current World Trade Organisation talks which are underway and the important meeting which is being held on 19 May 2008.
It is entirely appropriate that Deputy Creed should place this motion before the House at this time as the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, is due to speak to the European forum today about the EU reform treaty, the Lisbon treaty. The concerns about these negotiations are so deep that farming organisations are on the streets today in protest at the lack of clarity surrounding the WTO negotiations and the implications of what is on the table, not only for the Irish agri-sector but also for jobs in every sector in Irish society.
I am pleased to see the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the House. This is a forum where it behoves her as the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to set out her Department's response to what we know is being put on the table by Commissioner Mandelson.
I have some experience of this issue. In 1996 when Ireland held the Presidency of the European Union I was a Minister of State with responsibility for trade and I dealt with those negotiations along with the then Commissioner, Leon Brittan. I know how complex and difficult are these negotiations. It is a case of playing off one hemisphere against the other and dealing with issues of child labour, labour costs, agriculture and the other sectors of manufacturing and services.
The implications for this country of what is on the table in these negotiations need to be spelled out by the Minister. I have not heard nor have I seen the response from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as to the analysis the Minister has carried out on the implications for the beef and dairy sectors of Commissioner Mandelson's proposals for a 70% cut in tariffs, and the adjustments and devastation that would be wreaked on so many sectors of Irish life. I understand the figure for expenditure across the different sectors, particularly beef and dairy and right across the domestic supply services, is of the order of €6 billion, as against the domestic spend for services and goods supplied for the pharmaceutical sector which is approximately €2 billion. These are both very important areas of manufacturing and service provision.
I am an elected vice-president of the EPP and I attend the meetings in Brussels of what is the most important voting block in the European Parliament. Food shortage, increased productivity costs, increased fertiliser costs, the implications of deforestation and a move to bio-fuels, and climate change, all have implications for the agri-sector.
I need to hear from the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and from the Department her analysis of the implications of what Commissioner Mandelson has on the table. Does she agree with the figures produced by the farming organisations in this country that a tripling of the importation of beef into the European Union would cause the loss of 50,000 jobs in the agri-sector in this country? Does she accept that this figure is real, that it is validated and that this figure stands up in the context of her Department's assessments? No Member of this House has knowledge of the Department's assessments and this House is the forum where this should be spelled out by the Minister.
Is the Minister, on behalf of the Government, in a position to veto a deal whether or not it is concluded on 19 May? Has the Government discussed this position and taken a decision on it? My understanding is that if this is dealt with sector by sector, it may come back to the General Services Committee in which case the Minister for Foreign Affairs may have to vote on this issue. The Minister should inform the House whether the Government has discussed this and whether she is in a position to carry through a veto in respect of the WTO proposals being put forward by Commissioner Mandelson and with their consequential devastating results for the Irish agri-sector. We need to know these facts. We need to know the advice and assessment provided to the Minister by the experts in the Department and in the Government.
The different leaders of the European countries are very concerned that any deal done should be balanced and fair. The point being made by Deputy Creed and others is that it is not fair to have a situation where Irish agriculture measures up to the highest standards of production, hygiene, safety and traceability and yet we allow a situation where there are floods of imported products coming into the European Union from other dubious sources.
This will come to a head on 19 May 2008 in Geneva. We need to be very clear about where our Government stands. Is the Minister in a position to use a veto? Is it her view that this will require unanimity of decision as to whether or not the matter will be concluded on 19 May? What is the assessment of the Minister and her Department of Commissioner Mandelson's proposals?
The Government amendment to this motion refers to the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. If my recollection is correct, that was for a 35% cut in tariffs but the 2005 mandate given to the Minister by her Government was for a 50% cut. What is the position? What is her negotiating stance and what are the figures and the assessments available to her?
We have had a wall of silence from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and from the Minister in terms of the figures and the validation of these figures. Does the Minister accept the IFA's figures? Are these the figures the Department is using? Does she accept the other conclusions of the farming organisations? We need to know.
Politicians are spending their time going around the country informing people about the EU reform treaty. It is very important that people know what the treaty contains. This is equally the case for the WTO talks and the implications for Irish agriculture and jobs in all sectors. We need to know what the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is doing in response to Commissioner Mandelson's proposals. What is her assessment of the consequences of what he has said?
I have been through this process previously and I respect the need for a fair and balanced deal. However, other leaders in Europe who attend at the sessions of the European People's Party are very concerned that what is on the table will not lead to a balanced deal and would be devastating for Ireland.
I cannot comment and neither do I know what are the implications of American involvement. America is the real power house in world politics and in 1996 issues that the Americans did not wish to discuss were not discussed. Senator Clinton has stated she would not sign a deal and I have not heard the views of Senator McCain or Senator Obama.
There are implications for the sector and we need clarity from the Minister. We need a strong, clear and concise decision. I ask the Minister in her response to Deputy Creed's motion to tell the House the evaluation of the Department and whether she is in a position to veto this deal in respect of the protection of thousands of jobs across many sectors of the Irish economy, on the basis that this does not represent a balanced and fair deal or outcome for everybody.