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Varadkar: Ireland will vote against South America trade deal if risks outweigh benefits

The Mercosur trade pact is the largest ever concluded by the EU.

Image: European Council of the European Union

IRELAND COULD VOTE against the EU-Mercosur trade deal which has been described as “a bad deal” for Ireland’s beef sector. 

Speaking to reporters in Brussels yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the government will now conduct a full economic assessment of the so-called ‘Mercosur Deal’.

The EU and the South American trade bloc Mercosur sealed the hugely significant trade agreement on Friday, 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 on domestic beef markets.

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. 

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

Speaking yesterday, the Taoiseach said that Ireland could not block the deal at the EU Trade Council – even if it voted against it – and said that a vote on the deal was at least two years away. 

“This would go to the Trade Council for a Qualified Majority Vote in about two years’ time, so there’s a long way to go yet,” Varadkar said.

“What we will do now is an economic assessment of the EU-Mercosur deal to see what impact it’ll have on the Irish economy and on jobs. If it’s going to have a negative impact on the Irish economy and jobs, then obviously we’ll vote against it. If it has a positive impact, well then we’ll be minded to vote for it”.

‘It is a bad deal’

Commenting on the trade deal, Varadkar said: “It appears it may be good for dairy, good for the drinks industry, good for SMEs and good for the services sector. It’s also very evident that it would be bad for the beef sector so we’ll have to do an economic assessment… and if it’s bad for Ireland then we’ll vote against it.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme yesterday, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said that the trade agreement reached between the EU and a South American trading bloc is “a bad deal” for Ireland’s beef sector. 

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.

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 country for about 1-2% of the entire EU bloc. 

The Mercosur trade pact is the largest ever concluded by the EU 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.

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