The EU-Mercosur negotiations have not progressed sufficiently to the point where any agreement is likely to be concluded soon. Apart from the well-known sensitivities in relation to Mercosur beef access to the EU market, other outstanding issues include cars, rules of origin, geographical indications, maritime services and EU dairy access to the Mercosur market. The next round of negotiations is scheduled for May 2019, with the most recent having taken place in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, again without announcement of any major breakthroughs.
From an Irish perspective, we have been very consistent in urging caution in the approach to these negotiations. Our position has been reiterated many times, for example by myself and by my colleague, Minister Andrew Doyle, at Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings, and by other Ministers in the relevant EU Trade policy fora. It has also been done through direct contacts with Commissioners Hogan and Malmstroem, and by the Taoiseach at European Council and through his own direct contacts, including with Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron. I have also been working closely with Member State colleagues in this regard, and have remained in close contact with Commissioner Hogan on the matter.
In an overall sense there is undoubtedly a need for continued vigilance in relation to the conduct of these trade negotiations. I will continue to insist that they are handled appropriately, and in a manner that safeguards the interests of the Irish and European beef sector. I also continue to stress that full account must be taken of the findings of the Commission’s own assessment of the cumulative impact of trade deals on the agri food sector, and the potentially very damaging impact of Brexit on an already delicately balanced EU beef market.