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Minister Coughlan reacts to Falconer WTO Paper

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today gave a preliminary reaction to the latest paper issued by the Chairman of the WTO Negotiating Committee on Agriculture, Crawford Falconer. This paper is the most recent of a series of papers produced by the Chairman Falconer aimed at brokering a final agreement on the current round of WTO negotiations.

The Minister said the paper was highly technical and covered a wide range of issues. While it sought to narrow the gaps between trading partners on a number of the headline issues, a great deal of clarification was still required. The Minister expressed serious concern about some of suggestions in the document and repeated her position that European and Irish agriculture must not be sacrificed in any final WTO deal.

The Minister had a number of concerns relating to the numbers now being mentioned, such as for domestic support, where reductions of up to 85% were now being mooted. The Minister said that such reductions would be totally unacceptable. If they were applied, they would undermine the CAP reforms already undertaken by the EU in preparation for the WTO round.

The Minister also expressed serious concern about the trend of the negotiations on agricultural market access where cuts of up to 73% were being mooted by Falconer in respect of products with high current tariffs, including some beef products. While Minister Coughlan acknowledged that the proposals to reduce the proposed tariff cuts for certain so-called sensitive products could mitigate the effects of these cuts, she said a top-line cut of 73% was well beyond the previous EU offer in the negotiations and would not be accepted.

The Minister also said that the proposals now put forward on export competition were not balanced. She contrasted the very clear expectation that export refunds would be abolished by 2013, including commitments to reductions in value and volume in the phasing out period, with the very vague disciplines being imposed on other forms of export competition such as disguised food aid, export credits and State trading enterprises. This raised serious questions about the balance of the document as between the positions of the EU and other countries.

The Minister said that she would be studying the paper in detail and would be making her views known to the Commission.

A first examination of the paper will be conducted by the Article 133 Committee of EU Trade Experts on Friday, 20 July. EU Trade Ministers will examine it at the upcoming General Affairs Council in Brussels on 23 July and WTO Members will give their initial reactions to it at a series of meetings to take place in Geneva next week.

18 July 2007

Date Released: 18 July 2007