Wednesday, 9 October 2019
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
As the Deputy will be aware, on 28 June, the EU concluded negotiations for an Association Agreement with Mercosur after nearly 20 years and 40 rounds of talks which would mark the EU’s largest trade deal to date.
The Agreement will see a significant reduction, or elimination, of tariffs and barriers to trade which will allow an increased flow of trade and investment between Ireland, the EU and the Mercosur region, potentially increasing the demand for Irish products and the jobs that supports.
As with every Free Trade Agreement, Ireland had "defensive" as well as "offensive" interests. The Agreement with Mercosur presents sectoral opportunities for Ireland across a wide range of sectors. On the other hand, I was always keenly aware of the potential impact that this Agreement could present to the EU’s and Ireland’s beef sector. In that regard, Ireland, along with a number of other Member States, asserted early on in the negotiations that these agricultural sensitivities - and beef in particular - must be fully considered in the negotiations. Ireland has also continually highlighted the cumulative impact of agricultural market access in relation to all EU trade agreements.
Our concerns have been raised at all political levels, including by myself and my officials raising the issues with counterparts, both at Trade Council of Ministers, and bilaterally with the EU Commission, and with my Member State counterparts. For example, in my discussions with fellow Trade Ministers, including from Germany, at the EU Council just last Tuesday, I reminded colleagues that while the Mercosur Agreement offers clear geopolitical and economic opportunities the beef tariff rate quota presents difficulties for Ireland given the current economic viability challenges faced by our primary producers.
I had previously written to the EU Trade Commissioner in May this year on beef – an offensive demand from the Mercosur side – identifying the very tight parameters that should obtain in terms of volume, the phasing-in periods, quota monitoring, quota composition, robust checks at point of import regarding "SPS" and food safety issues. Additionally, An Taoiseach also wrote to the Commission in June to highlight our particular sensitivities in these negotiations, together with the leaders of France, Poland and Belgium.
We have also engaged on these issues throughout the negotiating period through the Trade Policy Committee in Brussels, as well as joining with other Member States in formally writing to the Commission outlining our specific concerns.
I might add that as recently as July this year I held a bilateral meeting with The State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Ms. Claudia Dorr-Voss, where once again I outlined Ireland’s concerns regarding the potential impact of the Mercosur Agreement on Ireland’s beef sector.