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Coughlan maintains firm stance at WTO talks

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., said today in Geneva that she was totally opposed to any further concession in agriculture by the EU at the WTO negotiations. The Minister was speaking at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) which was held in preparation for the WTO Ministerial Meeting which takes place over the next few days.

The Minister insisted that there is no justification for further movement by the EU. "The EU has undertaken CAP reform in preparation for these negotiations and has already made a generous offer to reduce support and protection for agriculture. The latest EU offer was conditional on movement by others and there has been no such reciprocal move. Similarly, the EU's acceptance in Hong Kong of the phasing out of export subsidies was conditional on full parallel treatment of all forms of export subsidy. Again this has not been delivered".

The Minister also insisted that the EU is at the limit of its negotiating mandate.

The Minister stressed that she is opposed to any move towards the G20 position which would have very damaging consequences for market access, a point which was acknowledged today by the Commission and particularly for beef imports into the EU.

Minister Coughlan said there was strong support for her position especially from the G14 Group of like-minded member states. She added that she has been very active in ensuring solidarity in the group in defending EU agriculture in the run up to and during the talks. The Minister last week had bilateral meetings with several of her colleagues in the group in Luxembourg, Paris and Rome.

The Minister said she was surprised by the comments attributed to Commissioner Mandelson that he had a mandate from the Council of Ministers for flexibility in the EU position if the trading partners move. She said that this is certainly not her position and does not correspond with that of many of her colleagues.

"I will continue to oppose any unilateral move by the Commission and any concession at any stage which might necessitate further CAP reform. I will continue to work with my colleagues to maintain support for this position. In my view no deal is better than a bad deal".

29 June, 2006

Date Released: 29 June 2006