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Minister Coughlan meets US political leaders

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., had a series of meetings yesterday with representatives of the US administration and legislature in Washington. The meetings are part of her week-long visit to the US to promote Foreign Direct Investment in the food industry in Ireland, to open and promote Irish investments in the US.

The Minister had meetings with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Charles Conner; Senator Saxby Chambliss, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and Congressman Bob Goodlatte, Chair of the House Agriculture Committee. The issues discussed at the meetings included the situation in the agriculture and food industry in Ireland, the EU and the US, current policy developments and, in particular, the on-going negotiations on the new WTO round.

The Minister said that it was clear that Ireland and the EU had much in common with the US in this area in that agriculture and food were still very important economically, socially and politically to both. While farm size in the US is much larger than in the EU, both have a large number of small farmers and there are shared concerns about their futures.

Minister Coughlan said that in her discussions, she had outlined the effect of the on-going CAP reforms, including decoupling and the introduction of the Single Farm Payment. The US side had, in turn, indicated its assessment of the possibilities for policy change in the next US Farm Bill.

There was also a useful exchange of views on the WTO and the issues arising in the Doha Round.

Minister Coughlan said she had discussed other issues with the US political figures notably the situation of undocumented Irish immigrants and said that she had used the opportunity to outline the position of the Irish Government on the need to find an acceptable and early resolution.

Minister Coughlan concluded that she was delighted to have the opportunity at this crucial time to meet with US political leaders. The meetings had been extremely useful in improving relations and in contributing to each side's understanding on the other's concerns.

5 May, 2006

Date Released: 05 May 2006