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World Trade Negotiations.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Questions (8)

Bernard J. Durkan


8 Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the steps he will take to safeguard Irish and European food producing interests in the context of World Trade Organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11916/10]

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Oral answers (3 contributions) (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

At present, despite high-level political commitments to conclude the WTO negotiations and notwithstanding the advanced stage of the negotiations, the prospects for a deal in 2010 are in doubt. The positions of some other key countries remain unclear and this has made progress difficult. That having been said, it is inevitable that the current WTO negotiating round will conclude at some point in the future and will set the policy environment for the future development of EU and Irish agriculture.

It is essential that we maintain coherence between our policy decisions on the future of the CAP and the negotiating process in the WTO talks. We must ensure that we do not undermine the competitiveness and sustainability of European and Irish agriculture by decisions taken in the context of the WTO negotiations and we need to adopt a coherent and co-ordinated approach to both policy dossiers.

My view is that by safeguarding Irish and European agriculture policy in the current negotiations on the future of the CAP and by adhering closely to the original objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy as set out in the Treaty of Rome and reiterated in the Lisbon treaty, these interests will then be safeguarded and compatible within the context of the world trade negotiations. EU agriculture policy must contain elements that protect farmers' incomes and thus maintain family farming in Europe. It also needs to ensure security of food supply and the delivery of quality products to consumers at reasonable prices.

Essentially, future EU agricultural policy must be based on the twin goals of competitiveness and sustainability and it must have sufficient resources to meet these goals. These objectives apply equally whether the discussion concerns the future of the Common Agricultural Policy or the WTO trade talks. They are points that I have pressed strongly in discussions to date with other member states and in the Council of Ministers and I am pleased that there is strong support for my views with my ministerial colleagues.

Is there a final position on the EU's position in terms of this negotiation or are there continuous bilateral talks on the Irish position at the WTO?

That is particularly relevant in view of the fact that the review of the Common Agricultural Policy is under way at present and there is a change in Commissioners as well. These are particular issues. However, at every opportunity we highlight the fact that we can only support a WTO deal that is ambitious, fair and balanced.

Less than two weeks ago I attended the OECD ministerial meeting on agriculture and food. While we were not discussing trade talks at that meeting, at any time in our various discussions on the future challenges in agriculture and food of climate change and food security when the issue of trade entered into the dialogue, the unanimity and similarity of views dissipated quickly. There are significant divergences. The OECD, as Deputy Sherlock would be aware, consists of approximately 40 countries — some members of the European Union, large member states outside it such the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile.

There is a divergence of views. In December last, Mr. Lamy, the Director-General of the WTO, was planning to hold a ministerial conference. That did not happen; there was a technical meeting. My understanding from the WTO, and from our regular questioning of this issue, is that there will be a meeting to assess the situation at the end of this month. By and large, that will be on technical measures, and at official, not ministerial, level.

Inevitably, there will be another world trade agreement. We do not know, however, whether it will be at the conclusion of this Doha round. There are substantially divergent views on the matter. The British Prime Minister, Mr. Brown, and others in the G8-G20 fora were putting out the message that with global economic turbulence, an international trade agreement would be a stimulus to economic development. A fair and balanced deal would help to create economic regeneration which we are all working towards. It cannot, however, be at the expense of the agrifood sector in the European Union.