Farming interests ‘must be protected’ in EU-US trade deal

IFA launches position paper on transatlantic trade negotiations

A TTIP deal could encompass almost half the global economy, potentially generating €92 billion in added output for the EU and US.

A TTIP deal could encompass almost half the global economy, potentially generating €92 billion in added output for the EU and US.

 

EU negotiators must ensure the interests of Irish and European farmers are not sacrificed in pursuit of an overall trade deal with the US, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has warned.

Speaking at the launch of an IFA position paper on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, IFA president Eddie Downey said it was clear from recent meetings with US stakeholders in Washington that the US has ambitions for major agricultural exports into the EU market.

“While recognising the potential opportunities from increased access to the US market, the Government cannot countenance a trade deal that would damage farmers and Irish agricultural exports on the EU market,” he said.

His comments come amid ongoing transatlantic trade negotiations between the EU and the US, under the banner of TTIP - the proposed free trade agreement.

If reached, the deal could encompass almost half the global economy, potentially generating €92 billion in added output for the EU and US.

However, the IFA is concerned an easing of restrictions could seriously disrupt the pattern of trade in Europe, with an influx of US imports lowering prices for a range of products and eroding producer margins.

“As a fundamental principle, EU negotiators must insist on equivalence of standards. That is, all US imports must meet the same animal health, welfare, traceability and environmental standards as is required of EU producers,” Mr Downey said.

Its position paper outlines a number of red line issues for the industry here.

Specifically, the association said the EU must not reach a trade agreement with the US which runs counter to EU climate change objectives, by facilitating the replacement of carbon efficient Irish produce on the EU market with carbon intensive US imports.

The current trade arrangements limit the US to exporting about 30,000 tonnes of beef into Europe before a punitive tariff kicks in.

However, in return for allowing European producers back into the US beef market, US negotiators are likely to seek a lifting of these restrictions.

In its document, the IFA said it wants EU beef and pigmeat to be designated as “sensitive products”, with access granted under Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs) on a fair basis. However, it said some level of reduced tariffs must be retained on all EU beef imports under any agreed TRQ.

A key point for the IFA is that there must be “an equivalence on dairy hygiene standards” between the EU and US systems before the removal of barriers to entry to the US market.

Farming organisations in Europe believe the industry here works to higher hygiene standards than the US and are wary of

A major sticking point is likely to be US’s use of hormones in meat which is currently banned in the EU.

The IFA also said with “potential market opportunities for Irish sheep meat exports to the US”, it is vitally important that the access restrictions are removed.

The association also insisted pigmeat products permitted for import into the EU must meet equivalent animal welfare standards.

“Over the coming months, IFA will be intensifying its engagement with key stakeholders in the Oireachtas, European Parliament and European Commission to ensure that the principles outlined in this document are adopted by EU negotiators,” Mr Downey said.