Thursday, 13 July 2023
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
34. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the extent to which he remains satisfied that agri-food imports into this country are only allowed from countries adhering to carbon reduction measures similar to those that apply in this jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34623/23]
This question seeks to ensure that the same rules apply to all in respect of agri-food production. In respect of the importation of agri-food products, it seeks to ensure that they come from countries with similar restrictions and requirements in order to compete with carbon reduction targets.
As a small open economy, international trade and the global rules-based system which supports that trade are critical for the continued development of the Irish economy. In the case of the Irish agri-food sector, our exports are very high quality. They are sustainably produced goods and we export them to some 180 countries around the world. This highlights the importance of the rules-based trading system for our agri-food sector. It is clear that the global economy is facing many new challenges, including those associated with sustainability and climate change. These challenges need to be addressed in the context of a coherent international trade policy. Ireland therefore supports approaches at European level which promote collaboration with international partners in order to achieve sustainability objectives, including the shaping of EU trade policy to achieve these objectives.
Specifically, Ireland supports the approaches outlined in the European Commission’s June 2022 report on the application of EU health and environmental standards to imported agricultural and agri-food products. That report confirms that the EU should work collaboratively with global trading partners to find solutions to address such cross-cutting global policy issues in multilateral institutions, including in the international standards bodies, the World Organisation for Animal Health, OIE, the International Plant Protection Convention, IPPC, and the Codex Alimentariusor food code; that the EU's commitment to sustainable food systems is at the heart of its approach to addressing issues in these international fora, and is a focus of EU trade policy development; and that the EU negotiates robust sustainability chapters in new EU free trade agreements with third countries, including specific chapters on sustainable food systems. The new EU-New Zealand trade agreement includes both ambitious sustainable food systems and trade and sustainability chapters. The 2022 report further confirms that the use of autonomous trade measures by the EU to address sustainability priorities is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they are fair, transparent, non-discriminatory and compliant with World Trade Organisation rules.
I thank the Minister for his detailed reply. In any changing situation, Irish producers will look at the global situation within and outside the EU to try to ensure they are being treated the same as others. I refer particularly to countries that might have an advantage accruing to them from the use, misuse or ability to avoid some of the impositions on the agri-food sector here. I ask the Minister to continue to ensure that we are able to trade on a level playing pitch and that the same rules apply to those countries that compete with our producers in the open market, wherever the market may be, in this country or in other third countries.
It is a really important principle. In order to be fair to our food producers domestically and across the EU, where high standards are set in food safety and sustainability, those same standards should be required of countries we would trade with. Ultimately that food is coming into the same market and competing with the food we produce.
It should be meeting the same standard of production. That is very important with regard to the trade deals being carried out that that is an approach in principle which applies and it is certainly something that we have been making clear at European level. It must be the case. We will certainly continue with that requirement.
Is the Minister satisfied with the rigorousness of the inspection or the ways and means by which comparisons are made between the husbandry, hygiene and other methods used, in some cases, to enhance production but in particular to compete more effectively in the markets to ensure that we and the producers in this country have an equal chance with everybody else? If they are competing in world markets with a product from wherever, it is important this on an equal footing and they are not disadvantaged by the rules to any extent.
We need to ensure that is the case. It has not always been the case in the past that the same attention has been paid to the requirements and the oversight of what is coming in compared to what we do within our own borders. With regard to trade deals, which are being renewed or are being initiated for the first time, that question has to be to the forefront. The standards have to be the same. We have to be assured that those standards are being met and fulfilled with regard to how these products are being produced. Safeguards must be sought in that regard. It is an important principle particularly in terms of putting more of a focus on how we go about reducing emissions and the challenges that can bring in the steps that need to be taken in producing food. Other countries need to be doing the same and we need to apply that. We all have to work together to ensure progress is being made. We should require the same of those who trade with us that we require of ourselves with regard to how we carry out our business.