Ireland, supported by France keeps putting pressure to derail the ongoing trade talks between the European Union commission and Mercosur, reports the Dublin press.
Irish Agriculture minister Simon Coveney launched a scathing attack on the talks arguing they have the potential to seriously damage the Irish beef sector.
Similarly one of Ireland’s main farmers’ associations called to “oppose the Mercosur deal with every ounce of energy we have.
Addressing the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers in Brussels, Minister Coveney called for a detailed analysis of the impact of any proposed agreement and said it had to be comprehensively discussed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament before any offers are made by the Commission.
Pointing out that any further opening of the EU beef market will lead to the Mercosur countries targeting the high-value end of the trade the minister said this would have a disproportionate impact on EU cattle prices and on returns to producers.
Beef production is our largest farming sector, and is a vital part of our export-based economy, with over 80% of its output exported to other EU countries, he said. This leaves us particularly vulnerable to any offer that is made to Mercosur in this sector.”
The Minister also drew attention to the negative climate implications of replacing EU beef with imports from South America. The carbon footprint for Irish beef is less than a quarter of the CO2 emissions associated with Brazilian beef.
The Irish position was supported by several other Council delegations, who also called for a cautious and transparent approach by the EC in the negotiations according to Minister Coveney.
Meanwhile one of the leading farmers lobbies ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association) president Jackie Cahill stated that any possible trade deal between the EU and Mercosur would present a substantial threat to Ireland's national interests.
Cahill's comments followed a meeting with the EC in which officials acknowledged that such a deal would damage the EU beef sector in general and the Irish sector in particular. The EC is of the view that some form of compensation package might be offered to offset the damage caused by mass imports from Mercosur.
The ICMSA chief called on Minister Coveney to reject any fundamental change to the nature and scale of beef imports from Mercosur and the idea of a compensation package.
We should oppose the Mercosur deal with every ounce of energy we have, Mr Cahill said. But if it does happen, we should insist as an absolute deal-breaker that South American beef imports meet exactly the same tests and regulatory requirements as Irish or Scottish beef.
The Commission is going to shaft Europe's beef sector and we're the most successful beef exporters within that sector.
”It's time that we started to draw some lines or draw some conclusions”, he added.