Mercosur deal could undermine Irish beef industry, claims Smith

THE Government’s “serious concerns” about the possible impact that a trade agreement with the Mercosur group of South American countries might have on the Irish beef sector have been conveyed to the European Commission.

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith outlined the concerns when he met EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht in Brussels earlier this week.

Mr Smith said beef quotas of 300,000 tonnes which have been sought by Mercosur would certainly target the market for high value product and would seriously undermine Ireland’s beef industry.

He said this distinct segment of the overall EU beef market accounts for around 25% of the value of the market although it represents only 6% of production. Mr Smith said environmental considerations should be factored into any agreement with the Mercosur group comprising Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The CAP ensured EU beef was produced in a sustainable manner with reduced carbon emissions.

“The same could not be said for South American production where emissions were well in excess of Irish levels. In such circumstances the EU should not allow its production to be displaced by less sustainable systems,” he said.

The IFA is also warning that a bilateral EU trade deal with Brazil and other South American countries will decimate the livelihoods of 80,000 Irish livestock farmers and inflict losses of €350 million on the beef sector.

But the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has already said a successful outcome to the talks can offer benefits in terms of jobs and growth for both sides. The resumption of the negotiations will be at the heart of a summit between the EU and Brazil which began in Brasilia yesterday.

European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and President Barroso will be meeting with Brazilian president Lula da Silva.

This summit takes place only days before Brazil takes over from Argentina the rotating Mercosur chair and a week after delegates from the four member states met with their EU counterparts in Buenos Aires to discuss a trade agreement which had been stalled for six years.

President da Silva, who steps down next January first after eight years in office, has repeatedly stated he would like to have an agreement signed with the EU before then.


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