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'It's a bad deal, there's no point in saying otherwise': Agriculture minister on trade agreement with South American countries

The deal with hit the Irish beef sector.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD.
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

AGRICULTURE MINISTER MICHAEL Creed has said that a trade agreement reached between the EU and a South American trading bloc is “a bad deal” for Ireland’s beef sector. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Creed said that draft agreement with Mercosur was “a deal that no member state or no national parliament has agreed”.

“That’s an important starting point to remember. It is a bad deal there’s no point in saying otherwise. It’s a bad deal for the beef sector,” Creed said.

He spoke to the programme after the the Irish Farmers’ Association’s National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said that the deal would ”decimate” the beef market in Ireland. 

The EU and the South American trade bloc Mercosur on Friday sealed the hugely significant trade deal, ending 20 years of talks over one of the world’s largest regional commercial accords.

The agreement came after two decades of negotiations between the EU and the countries of Mercosur – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – which had repeatedly stalled because of the issues that European farmers had over the effect the deal would have domestic beef markets.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the agreement a “historical moment” in the midst of international trade tensions. 

The trade pact is the largest ever concluded by the EU, he said, and would save European companies more than €4 billion worth of trade duties every year, as well as create a market of about 780 million people.

Irish anger

However, the deal has been met with widespread anger in Ireland, with the IFA and Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) among the groups condemning it. 

They say will undermine beef markets as cheaper beef with low tariffs floods the EU from South America. 

Creed said that nothing had been fully agreed as of yet and that Ireland needed to work together with other EU countries to ensure that the Irish beef sector wasn’t negatively affected. 

“What we need to do now is take the temperature across Europe including other member states because no member state and no national parliament has yet ratified it,” he said.

He said there would be a “long lead in” period as the deal went from a political agreement to a legal text. 

“And in that intervening period to work to diminish the impact of this particularly in the beef sector,” he said. 

And there’s a whole host of areas we could focus on in terms of delivering tangible benefits in the context of what’s on the table now. 

Fianna Fáil’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said that the government had been “asleep at the wheel” during the denotations and that it was “simply not strong enough” when making Ireland’s position felt. 

Creed said it was his belief that Ireland would not have the ability to veto the deal, instead only having a qualified majority vote. This means that the country’s vote would only county for about 1-2% of the entire EU bloc. 

With reporting from © – AFP 2019

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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