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Coughlan Meets Mandelson On WTO

Speaking after her meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today reaffirmed her deep concern about aspects of the current world trade talks.

The negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) involve over 150 countries and have now been going on for seven years. The talks cover agriculture, manufacturing, services, trade rules and trade facilitation but have been concentrating heavily on agriculture in recent months. The Director General of WTO has indicated that he proposes to call a ministerial meeting in May to discuss agriculture and manufacturing trade.

"Ireland is a trading nation and as such we have a strong national interest in seeing a successful trade round and a strong WTO. However we are deeply concerned at the imbalance in the current negotiations. As things stand, we see EU and Irish agriculture are being asked to carry a disportionate burden in the overall effort to conclude a deal" the Minister said.

Minister Coughlan said that she drew the Commissioner's attention to the dramatic changes in world food markets since these negotiations commenced. "I pointed out that many EU Governments now share our conviction about the need to maintain a strong agricultural production base in Europe. But this critical fact is being ignored in the WTO process to date."

The Minister emphasised the very real difficulties for Irish agriculture and the food industry from some of the proposals emanating from the WTO in Geneva. "The agrifood sector in Ireland, built up over years to become the huge contributor that it now is to our economy must not be damaged by a WTO agreement which fails to take account of the new realities emerging in world food supply."

Minister Coughlan outlined in detail the dramatic impact of hugely increased imports of beef and the concentration of these imports on high value cuts of meat. She called on the Commissioner to ensure a meaningful level of protection for our industry. She also said that our concerns were not confined to the beef sector and underscored to the Commissioner the difficulties some of the proposals would generate for our dairy, pigmeat and sheepmeat sectors also.

The Minister concluded, "I made it clear that I felt we must not allow ourselves to be bounced into a bad deal now merely to fit in with the US electoral timetable".

Date Released: 30 April 2008