Thursday, 1 February 2018

Ceisteanna (234)

Brendan Smith

Ceist:

234. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine to outline the outcome of recent discussions he had with the European Agriculture and Trade Commissioners on the need to protect the agrifood sector here in negotiations on a possible Mercosur trade deal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5148/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

Ireland's position is well-known as regards our opposition to any agreement that would have negative consequences for the Irish and EU agriculture sectors, and for the beef sector in particular. It has been reiterated many times, by myself at Council of Agriculture Ministers meetings and through direct contacts with Commissioners Hogan and Malmstroem, by other Ministers in the relevant EU Trade policy fora, and by the Taoiseach at European Council and through his own direct contacts, most recently with Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and French President Emmanuel Macron. Indeed my colleague, Minister of State Andrew Doyle, made a very strong intervention on this point at this week's Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels, and spoke to Commissioner Hogan on the matter.

I have been very consistent in urging caution in the approach to these negotiations, and have expressed Ireland's very grave concerns about the offer of a beef tariff rate quota of 70,000 tonnes made by the EU to Mercosur last October, and our determination not to have this exceeded. Indeed it was as a result of the efforts of Ireland and a number of like minded member states that a draft EU offer of 78,000 tonnes in April 2017 was ultimately not tabled.

I believe there is a need for continued vigilance in relation to the conduct of these trade negotiations, and 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 will also continue to work very closely with Member State colleagues in this regard. In particular, I believe full account must be taken of the findings of the Commission’s own assessment of the cumulative impact of trade deals on the agrifood sector, and the potentially very damaging impact of Brexit on an already delicately balanced EU beef market.