Irish trade will benefit from the World Trade Organisation deal, a Government minister said today.
The Hong Kong talks agreed to end EU farm subsidies by 2013, which Irish farmers say will cost 50,000 jobs in the country’s food sector.
Trade Minister Michael Ahern, who represented Ireland at the talks, said the deal struck on Sunday morning was a fair and balanced outcome from Ireland’s point of view.
“The international trading environment is of particular importance to Ireland’s economy and an effective WTO is very much part of this,” he said from Hong Kong.
“We went into these negotiations not only to improve on Ireland’s trade prospects but also to secure the delivery of a substantial trade development aid package to poorer countries and we have delivered on both of these."
Mr Ahern said the agreement will come as a confidence booster for the WTO after the failure of the Seattle and Cancun meetings.
“As a small open economy, heavily dependent on trade, the success at Hong Kong will restore stability to the multilateral rules based trading system,” he added.
WTO director general Pascal Lamy said the Hong Kong deal will shift the world trade balance in favour of developing countries.
However, the Irish Farmers Association criticised the decision to phase out EU farm export subsidies.
It predicted that 50,000 jobs will be lost in farming here as the European food market is opened up to the the US, Canada Australia and New Zealand.
Minister for Agriculture Mary Coughlan also defended the deal agreed in Hong Kong yesterday, saying it is the best possible achievable deal for Ireland.
IFA President John Dillon said Irish farmers will pay a heavy price for losing out to multi-national traders and South American ranchers.
“The deal will destroy one third of Irish farm output that will mean a loss of €1.2bn to the country,” he said.
“Farm incomes will fall by 35%, with a knock-on loss of €800m to the rural economy.”
Mr Dillon said there would be 50,000 jobs lost in farming, farm supplies and processing as more and more of the European food market was taken over by North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.
“The incompetence of the EU negotiators and the flawed tactics pursued by Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson was particularly frustrating.”
Mr Dillon called for a high-level working party under the auspices of the Taoiseach’s office to co-ordinate Ireland’s handling of the vital technical negotiations in Geneva that have to be completed by April 2006.