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Coughlan voices concern over EU Commission approach to WTO negotiations

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today expressed her opposition to any further concession by the EU Commission in the WTO negotiations.

Speaking in Irish at the Agriculture Council in Brussels, the Minister said she was deeply concerned by the media reports of comments made by Commissioner Mandelson in Davos at the weekend in relation to market access. Minister Coughlan called on the Commission for increased transparency and also extreme caution in the negotiating strategy being adopted at a time when there appears to be no reciprocal concessions by trading partners.

"The impression has been created in the technical discussions with the US that the EU is prepared to improve its offer over and above the agreed negotiating position of October 2005. The Commissioner (Fischer Boel) has already outlined the devastating consequences of adopting the G20 position and I am alarmed that the Commission seems to be indicating a willingness to discuss such an outcome."

Minister Coughlan said that while Ireland is interested in reaching a successful conclusion to the current round of negotiations, there needs to be a balanced outcome both within agriculture and across all sectors of the negotiations, including Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA), trade in services and trade facilitation.

"The Doha round is not just about agriculture and I will not accept that agriculture should be sacrificed for the sake of achieving an agreement. The EU has already made significant contributions towards achieving progress in the negotiations by undertaking a fundamental reform of the Common Agricultural Policy in order to reduce trade-distorting subsidies in preparation for the negotiations. In addition, the EU has offered to make substantial reductions in import tariffs, to make further cuts in its domestic support and to eliminate export subsidies. It has also made generous offers to meet the concerns of Developing Countries."

In concluding her remarks at Council, Minister Coughlan said that there is no evidence to indicate that there has been any concession by the negotiating partners that would justify any further concession by the EU in agriculture, thereby exceeding the mandate. Given the circumstances, the EU should not make further concessions on agriculture going beyond its offer made in October 2005 and should not engage in discussions at this stage which suggest that the EU is prepared to consider such concessions.

Summing up the general view of the Council, the German Presidency concluded that the Commission should adhere to its negotiating mandate in seeking a balanced outcome to the negotiations.

29 January 2007

Date Released: 29 January 2007