Creed accused of ‘rolling over’ on South America beef deal
Minister has ‘expressed Ireland’s grave concerns’ over beef quota of 70,000 tonnes
‘We see opportunities in certain respects in agriculture but we see significant threats in beef.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has been accused of “rolling over” on a proposed deal which includes beef imports into the EU from South America.
Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue made the claim after Mr Creed said it would be inappropriate for Ireland to stand alone and “isolate ourselves” in opposing the trade deal “when we are seeking solidarity across the EU on a range of issues”, in apparent reference to Brexit.
Mr Creed said “no deal has been concluded” but a beef quota of 70,000 tonnes is part of trade negotiations with the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur.
The Minister said Ireland has “consistently opposed any agreement that will have negative consequences for the Irish and EU agriculture sectors, and the beef sector in particular”.
He acknowledged that “the direction of travel in beef is worrying” but said Ireland is only one of all member states.
Mr Creed also said he was in regular contact with EU commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmstrom, including this week, and continued to press Ireland’s concerns in advance of the next round of negotiations in Montevideo, Uruguay starting on June 4th.
He said: “I 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 strong view that this figure should not be exceeded”.
Mr McConalogue said the fact that the Minister did not want to see the quota exceeded “constitutes him giving up the ghost and indicating his acceptance of a figure of 70,000 tonnes being part of any final agreement”.
He said that “beef, which is particularly important to the Irish economy , is being asked to take the hit so that other parts of the European economy can benefit”.
The Donegal TD asked Mr Creed if he would vote against any deal at EU level “that has beef as part of it”.
The Minister replied that “our objective is to secure the best deal that beef would not be any part of. That’s what we’ve been campaigning on.”
He said: “The reality is that an offer of 70,000 tonnes has been made. We are not happy with it but Ireland is only one member state of the EU and the negotiations are not being conducted by the Agriculture Commissioner (Phil Hogan).”
Mr Creed said the Government would continue to press its case but he pointed out that “trade is a two-way street. In certain areas of Mercosur we see opportunities, particularly in the dairy sector.”
“However we feel particularly exposed in the beef sector, but we will continue to try to renegotiate the best possible deal.”
Asked if national parliaments would get to vote on the final deal Mr Creed said that was “contingent on the nature of the deal that will be concluded”.
“We see opportunities in certain respects in agriculture but we see significant threats in beef.”