Ireland among 13 states that may oppose EU-Mercosur trade deal

States do not want EU opened to Argentinian and Brazilian farm products

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney: wrote to EU’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström last week expressing his concerns about the potential impact of the deal on Ireland’s beef sector. Photograph: Eric Luke

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney: wrote to EU’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström last week expressing his concerns about the potential impact of the deal on Ireland’s beef sector. Photograph: Eric Luke

 
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Both sides are scheduled to exchange formal offers next month after more than a decade of stop-start negotiations.

The so-called “exchange of offers” will set out the duty-free access each side is willing to consider for goods and services.

The deal, which encompasses €115 billion in annual trade, is expected to include a more preferential tariff regime for sensitive products, such as beef.

However, a number of EU states including Ireland, France and Poland are resisting opening up of the EU to Argentinian and Brazilian farm products, which account for 40 per cent of Mercosur exports.

While the European Commission negotiates trade deals for EU governments, 13 countries said in a document seen by Reuters that any exchange of offers in May “must not contain any submission on the treatment of sensitive tariff lines”.

Concerns

Simon Coveney

In the letter, seen by The Irish Times, Mr Coveney said: “The proposed renewal of the Mercosur negotiations comes at a very sensitive and a very difficult time for European agriculture and for European farmers, and the evolution of the process needs to be carefully considered.”

European farmers fear they will be unable to compete with Argentina and Brazil, two of the world’s largest beef exporters, even with import tariffs.

The commission is expected to offer Mercosur, which comprises Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, a new tariff rate quota (TRQ) of 78,000 tonnes on top of the preferential 275,000 tonnes access it already receives.

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“If the majority of these imports were brought as high value steak cuts, it would be the equivalent of handing over more than one-third of the valuable European steak market to South America, ” the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said. IFA chairman Jer Bergin accused Brussels of drafting a “reckless offer” by running ahead of the commission’s own impact analysis which is not due until September.

He called on the EU’s trade policy committee to insist that Ms Malmström withdraw the draft offer.

The association also wants the Irish Government to join forces with France in opposing the deal.

“The EU already has an agricultural trade deficit with Mercosur of €18.5 billion. Member States must reject the flawed strategy from Commissioner Malmström of sacrificing agriculture, in particular the Irish and EU beef sector, to do a trade deal at any cost,” Mr Bergin said.

Additional reporting by Reuters