The opening up of the EU import market to large volumes of US beef poses one of the greatest threats to Irish agriculture in decades, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has warned.
The association’s deputy president Tim O’Leary says the reduction in trade barriers envisaged by the proposed EU-US trade deal “without regulatory convergence” on both sides would put producers here at a competitive disadvantage.
This is because of the extra costs European farmers would incur in complying with EU regulations, which include tighter controls on the use of GMOs, hormones and non-hormonal growth promoters, he said.
“The IFA is clear that, as a fundamental principle, EU negotiators must insist on equivalence of standards,” said Mr O’Leary, noting that “mutual recognition of standards” was simply not enough.
He was speaking at a seminar on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP) hosted at the European Parliament’s Dublin office, organised by
Ireland exports 90 per cent of the beef it produces, which equates to about half a million tonnes, worth about €2 billion to the economy.
It is the single biggest component of the State’s €10 billion food and drink exports.
A recent report by research group Copenhagen Economics predicted the beef industry here stood to lose up to €50 million a year from increased competition if TTIP goes ahead.
Mr O’Leary said beef production costs in the US are significantly lower than in Ireland or the EU due to a number of factors, including the relatively larger scale of production and the use of hormones and non-hormonal growth enhancers, which are banned in the EU.
These factors are estimated to reduce production costs by up to €100 per head, he said.
“While the TTIP offers opportunities for Ireland overall, IFA is clear that the interests of European and Irish agriculture must not be sacrificed by EU negotiators in pursuit of an overall trade deal,” he said.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton and Mr Kelly, meanwhile, told the seminar that TTIP offered "massive opportunities" for the Irish economy.
Mr Bruton said the Copenhagen Economics report indicated comprehensive trade agreement with the US would add 1.1 per cent to gross domestic product here and create up to 10,000 extra jobs.
Mr Kelly said businesses that currently trade with the US find the compliance requirements “very off-putting”.
“An ambitious but calculated EU trade agreement with the US will tear down trade barriers, open up investment opportunities, boost EU exports and particularly benefit SMEs,” he said, noting the deal could lead to a €250 billion or 2 per cent increase in EU GDP. This equated to an annual extra €500 per European family and the creation of over two million jobs across
, he added.