On the evening of Friday 28 June, European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström and Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, announced that political agreement has been reached on a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur countries.
While as a small, open economy, Ireland is supportive of international trade deals, I am very concerned at the potential impact of elements of this particular deal on the beef sector.
The agreement includes a significant Tariff Rate Quota for South American beef, at a time when the beef sector in Europe is facing significant uncertainty because of Brexit. We have made concerted efforts over the full twenty-year history of these negotiations, working closely with other Member State colleagues and engaging directly with the European Commission, in order to minimise the EU offer in terms of beef. While evidence of these efforts appears to have been reflected in the final offer, I am, nonetheless, deeply concerned at the potential impact on the Irish beef sector.
There may be some opportunity for other agri food sectors such as dairy and for the drinks industry, but we will need to examine the text carefully to assess the full impact.
It is also worth noting that this agreement will not come fully into effect for some years. It will first go through a process of legal scrubbing, which could take up to two years, before being put before the European Trade Council for ratification by Qualified Majority Vote, and the European Parliament.
If the agreement passes those hurdles, it is expected that the trade elements which fall under the EU Commission's competence, will be phased in over 6 years.