EU commissioner’s South American visit raises red flag for beef imports

A VISIT by European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to Brazil and Argentina for talks raises a red flag for Ireland regarding South American beef imports to Europe, it was claimed yesterday.

European Parliament member Marian Harkin said the Russians and Americans will not permit the importation of Brazilian beef and have good reasons for these decisions.

The EU, however, has been far less demanding in regard to standards and traceability of food products.

Commissioner de Gucht’s suggestion that a trade agreement would benefit EU exporters and investors has to be viewed with suspicion.

She said the Government must be extra vigilant in the months ahead to ensure Ireland’s interests are not ignored.

The EU began free trade negotiations with Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) in 1995. The talks were suspended without agreement in 2004.

Earlier this year, the European Commission decided to re-launch trade negotiations with Mercosur. This was endorsed in May by the EU-Mercosur Summit.

Since then, one negotiating round has taken place in Buenos Aires in June. The next round will take place next month in Brussels.

Commissioner de Gucht’s visit to Brazil, which holds the Mercosur presidency, and Argentina, continues until tomorrow.

Brussels said the commissioner will explore with his counterparts how to advance the ongoing EU-Mercosur trade negotiations and how to seize potential export opportunities.

“Given Mercosur’s economic growth, I see important opportunities for EU exporters, investors and service providers in this region in the coming years. A balanced and ambitious free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur could therefore bring substantial economic benefits to both sides and contribute to the economic recovery,” commissioner de Gucht said.

The commissioner has already met with political representatives in Brazil, notably foreign minister Celso Amorim and trade minister Miguel Jorge. During his visit to Argentina today, the Commissioner will meet with Chancellor Hector Timerman and industry minister Deborah Giorgi.

The commissioner is addressing the negotiating process between the EU and Mercosur as well as bilateral trade issues. He will also meet with business leaders and European industry representatives.


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