Thursday, 4 July 2019

Questions (384, 385)

Brendan Smith

Question:

384. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he has outlined clearly to the European Commission his opposition to the proposed Mercosur deal; the actions he plans to have the deal rejected; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29019/19]

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Brendan Smith

Question:

385. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outcome of his most recent discussions with the EU Agriculture and Trade Commissioners in relation to the proposed Mercosur deal; if he has outlined clearly his opposition to such a deal due to the adverse impacts it will have on agriculture here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29020/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 384 and 385 together.

While as a small, open economy, Ireland is supportive of international trade deals, I am very concerned at the potential impact of elements of the EU-Mercosur political agreement on the Irish beef sector. Throughout the negotiation process, Ireland has consistently opposed any agreement that would have negative consequences for the Irish and EU agriculture sectors, and for the beef sector in particular.

We have worked closely with other Member States and the European Commission in this regard. As recently as 7 June 2019, I wrote to Commissioner Hogan reiterating our concerns. I also held a bilateral meeting with the Commissioner at the African Union-European Union Ministerial Conference in Rome on 21-22 June. Also in June, the Taoiseach, with the Heads of Government of France, Poland and Belgium, co-signed a letter to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker expressing our deep concerns. Minister Heather Humphreys also formally wrote to Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.

In all interactions, we have consistently highlighted Ireland's concerns, and while some 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.

We must acknowledge that there may be some opportunities for the Irish dairy sector and for the drinks industry, and we will, of course, examine the text carefully when it emerges in order to assess its impact on the Irish economy and on the agri-food sector generally.

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. It may be provisionally applied but will take a further number of years before coming fully into effect. The Oireachtas and other national parliaments may also ultimately have a role in ratification.

We will also now reflect on the appropriate next steps in the context of both engaging further with Member State colleagues, and examining ways to diminish the potential impact of the agreement.