Thursday, 30 May 2019

Questions (80)

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

80. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the Mercosur trade talks; if beef will not form a part of a final agreement; if the European Commission has indicated it will offer additional beef access to Mercosur countries greater than the 70,000 tonnes that was signed off at EU level in October 2017; if she will not support a final deal that has beef as a component; the status of discussions at the recent EU Trade Policy Council Committee meeting regarding Mercosur; and the formal position taken by Ireland on same. [23164/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and Mercosur are ongoing. If concluded, an EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement would be the EU’s largest trade deal to date. The most recent formal round of negotiations took place in Buenos Aires on 11th – 15th March 2019. A week of intersessional meetings also took place between the European Commission and Mercosur in Buenos Aires between 13th – 17th May 2019.

At the October 2017 round of talks, an offer was made to Mercosur of an annual quota of 70,000 tons of beef to secure an FTA. This offer was divided into 35,000 tons of fresh beef and 35,000 tons of frozen meat. During discussions in January 2018, the Mercosur region made it clear that an increased offer on beef would be required to conclude the Agreement. However, the European Commission - which leads on such trade negotiations for the Member States under the EU Treaties - has not formally tabled a revised EU market access offer to date, as it awaits further movement from Mercosur on the EU’s offensive interests.  In this regard, Ireland and other Member States remain clear that the EU’s offensive goals must be achieved in the negotiations, particularly for Ireland’s dairy industry, before any final discussions on beef quota arrangements take place.

Overall, Ireland remains committed to these negotiations, especially in the view of the important economic and political gains expected for both sides from a comprehensive, ambitious, and balanced EU-Mercosur Agreement. Sectoral opportunities for Ireland in further enhancing a trading relationship with this region include software and services in telecommunications, financial services, digital content and travel, engineering products and services, life sciences, food and beverages, and education services.

Negotiations are ongoing with the likelihood of an agreement dependent on a number of factors, including whether there is an additional EU offer on beef.  Ireland continues to engage with our colleagues in the Commission and other Member States on the matter and they are aware of Ireland’s trade sensitivities in relation to agricultural products (especially beef), and the cumulative impacts for the agriculture sector across the suite of FTAs.  Ireland’s view on any Agreement reached, will be informed on the aggregate benefits the Agreement offers our economy as a whole.

In relation to the EU Trade Council meeting on Monday 27th May, the substantive agenda items were discussions on WTO Reform, EU-US trade relations, and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade and Investment Protection Agreements. The Commission also gave a debrief over lunchtime on ongoing Free Trade Agreements, including Mercosur.  Ireland expressed our commitment to the negotiations with Mercosur, but also expressed our concerns in relation to agriculture – in particular, sensitive tariff lines in relation to beef and Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) volume. The Commission confirmed that they are keenly aware of Ireland’s national sensitivities on agriculture in the context of this and other FTA negotiations.