As Members will know, the agreement reached last Friday was arrived at following 20 years of negotiations. First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge how vital international trade deals are for Ireland. As a small, open, export-led economy we very much support balanced international trade. The key word is "balanced". As a Government, we need to go through this deal in detail to see whether it strikes the right balance for Ireland. As somebody who lives on a beef farm, I absolutely recognise and appreciate the very genuine concerns expressed by our farming community in relation to the Mercosur deal. I say very clearly to farmers that the Government hears their concerns and understands them. It is important to recognise that there are positives in this deal for Ireland and significant benefits for Irish exporters in sectors such as business services, chemicals, the drinks industry, machinery, medical devices and the dairy industry, with the reduction or elimination of tariffs and barriers to trade for these sectors.
In 2018, Ireland exported almost €2 billion-worth of goods and services to the Mercosur region. Trade with the region has grown by almost one fifth in the period from 2010 to 2016. Against this level of export trade from Ireland to the Mercosur region, we anticipate that the EU-Mercosur agreement will allow Irish exporters to expand faster and take advantage of new opportunities. Analysis by my Department estimates that a potential doubling of annual goods and services exports from Ireland is possible over the period to 2030. The deal ensures that Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur are protected under the EU's GI scheme. It is also important to point out the special provisions for SMEs in the agreement. SMEs benefit most from the simplification of exporting and customs procedures, as the savings accrued are proportionately greater for them. There are also positives for the dairy sector, with tariffs on 45,000 tonnes of product, including cheese, milk powder and infant formula, moving from circa 19% to a zero tariff over a ten-year period, presenting significant opportunities for the sector.
Those are some of the benefits from this deal and it is important that I put them on the record. However, I am not going to stand here and say that this deal is perfect. As I said at the outset, I absolutely recognise the concerns of our farmers. While beef has been in the headlines in recent days, there are also very real concerns in relation to the poultry and pig sectors. Sometimes, it is easy to stand on the opposite side of this House and criticise the Government and play politics with an issue like this. I am from a rural community and have lived all my life on a farm. As a Government, we absolutely fought to achieve the best deal possible for our farmers.
This deal was negotiated at EU level. As a member state, Ireland has raised serious concerns over a long period in relation to beef access. For my part, I raised these concerns at every opportunity at European Council meetings on trade. I also raised concerns directly with the Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström. As recently as 31 May, I wrote to Commissioner Malmström to once again highlight our serious concerns, particularly given the current challenges and uncertainty facing the Irish beef sector in the light of Brexit. There has been a sustained effort across Government in relation to this, with both the Minister, Deputy Creed, and the Taoiseach raising it at the highest levels.
Initially, the South American countries were looking for a beef quota of 300,000 tonnes. The deal on the table offers 99,000 tonnes, and while that is still higher than we would want it to be, it is important to remember that it is less than one third of what was originally sought. That reduction is due to the active efforts made by Ireland and other member states. That 99,000 tonnes will be split between 45% frozen and 55% fresh and is carcass-weight equivalent; this is the whole animal and not just prime cuts.
The agreement ensures that there will be equivalent standards. EU SPS standards will not be relaxed in any way and remain non-negotiable. The highest EU standards will be applied to all imported goods, especially food, so no hormone beef or GMOs will be allowed. I assure farmers that equivalent standards are an integral part of this agreement.
In relation to concerns regarding climate change and deforestation, the Mercosur countries, including Brazil, will have to fully implement the Paris Agreement as part of this deal. If they do not, the deal is void and will fall.
I appreciate that when this deal was announced last Friday, it understandably struck fear within the farming community. It is important to remember that it is far from a done deal. This is an agreement in principle and has to go through a legal process, which could take up to two years. The deal then has to be voted through by a qualified majority on the Trade Council and go through the European Parliament, where the outcome is far from certain. After all that, it is highly likely that more than 40 Parliaments, including this House, will have their say on it. The quota for beef would be on a phased basis over five years, so we are talking about a deal that might not be fully felt until 2028. Meanwhile, we are staring down the barrel of a possible no-deal Brexit on 31 October, which could deliver a serious shock to our economy and in particular have damaging consequences for the agricultural sector. It is in the context of serious challenges such as Brexit that we need to step back and look at the bigger picture. In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, my Department will proceed to ensure that a comprehensive independent economic assessment is carried out on the Mercosur deal. We have the time and space necessary to do that. The shape that Brexit takes and the impact that has for the agricultural sector will be a key consideration of this economic assessment.
The Taoiseach has made it very dear that the Government has an open mind in relation to this deal. As I have outlined, there are benefits in certain sectors but there are also negatives. We need to determine whether overall this will be a win or a loss for our economy. We should not lose sight of the fact that in recent years, we have had EU trade agreements with Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and Mexico, which are very positive for our agricultural sector and provide for the export of 105,000 tonnes of European beef.