Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Trade Agreements

Matt Carthy (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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168. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the interactions he has had with his EU counterparts in respect of the EU-Mercosur trade agreement. [42651/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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The EU reached political agreement in their trade negotiations with the Mercosur region in June 2019. The resultant EU-Mercosur Agreement is the EU’s largest trade deal to date and covers a population of over 770 million with trade in goods and services valued at €122 billion. Irish exporters have been subject to trade tariffs, barriers and restrictions when exporting to Mercosur and the Agreement aims to reduce, and in some areas, eliminate trade tariffs between the EU and Mercosur, which will make exports from Ireland more attractive, and potentially increase the demand for Irish products.

In that regard, Ireland exported approximately €0.5 billion worth of goods and €0.7 billion worth of services to the Mercosur region in 2019, with Irish goods exports to Mercosur growing on average by 2% annually and Mercosur accounting for 0.3% of total Irish good exports in 2019.

Since taking up office as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I have had several bilateral meetings with my EU counterparts where I reiterated the challenges that remain for Ireland in relation to the Agreement. In addition to the beef "TRQ" concessions, there is the need to ensure that the commitments made within the Agreement regarding environmental protections and to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement are fully enforceable. More particularly, at a meeting of the EU’s Trade Council in Berlin in September, I took the opportunity to remind both the Commission, and my counterparts, that such enforceable guarantees which strengthen environmental protections, particularly with regard to the Amazon rainforest and climate action, are a priority for this Government in terms of our assessment of the benefits of the Agreement.

In response to these Member State and European Parliament concerns, Commission Executive Vice President and Trade Commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, has confirmed that the Commission is engaging with Mercosur countries to negotiate additional pre-commitments on climate and deforestation as there must be lasting solutions for the Amazon region before the Agreement is ratified. In addition, officials from my Department and across Government have continued to articulate the Government’s clear position regarding the Agreement at the highest level in the EU.

Finally, as you know, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine commissioned independent consultancy firm to undertake an Economic and Sustainability Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the EU-Mercosur Agreement. The impact assessment will consist of two components, namely a comprehensive analysis of the potential economic benefits as well as a robust sustainability impact assessment including; social, human rights and environmental impacts of the Agreement. This Impact Assessment, along with additional commitments on the issue of strengthening climate and deforestation provisions within the Agreement, will assist the Government’s decision-making on the Agreement ahead of the European Commission presenting EU Member States with the final text of the Agreement which we anticipate will be in Spring 2021.

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