Fair play to farmers – but they can’t be let hijack Mercosur debate

Deal pushes back against unprecedented challenges to free trade

The problems of Ireland’s beef sector “are mostly unrelated to a deal which opens up an additional 1.25 per cent of the EU beef market”.

The problems of Ireland’s beef sector “are mostly unrelated to a deal which opens up an additional 1.25 per cent of the EU beef market”.

For many years Irish trade policy has been based on trying to ride two horses at once – open up opportunities for Irish businesses, or more accurately businesses based here, and protect the farmers. Every country fights its own corner in trade matters, of course, and most countries have vulnerable sectors they want to shelter. But few lobbyists have been as persistent as the Irish farmers, who for many years had an alliance with their French counterparts in arguing that the European Union – which negotiates trade deals on our behalf – take due heed of the exposure of their industry.

The farm and beef lobbies shaped the agenda in the wake of the draft deal between the EU and the Mercosur countries – and soon had Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed dancing to their tune. Interestingly, French agriculture minister Didier Guillaume has played the same card, telling the French parliament that he “will not be the minister who sacrifices French agriculture at the altar of an international agreement”. So this is far from a done deal.

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