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Coughlan To Meet French Counterpart As WTO Talks Gather Momentum

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today expressed serious concern about the content of the recent paper issued by the Chairman of the WTO Negotiating Committee on Agriculture, Mr Crawford Falconer. This paper is the most recent effort at brokering an agreement on the current round of WTO negotiations. It is expected that there will be an intensified effort to find agreement over the next two months.

The Minister said that the Falconer paper lacked balance and took little account of the position of the European Union."I have difficulty with the proposed commitments, timing and balance in the document. I am determined that European and Irish agriculture must not be sacrificed in the effort to get a WTO deal now. Any WTO deal must not undermine the CAP reforms already undertaken, in good faith, by the EU in preparation for the WTO round".

The Minister said she was concerned about several aspects of the Falconer paper, including the scale and pace of reductions proposed for domestic supports to agriculture and especially the impact on access to EU markets for beef and other agricultural products. The Minister also said that the proposals put forward on export subsidies were not balanced and emphasized the importance of genuinely parallel commitments and action by all parties to the final agreement.

"I and my officials have been engaged in an intensive round of consultations with other Members States and the EU Commission in relation to the WTO, in advance of the release of this paper. I will be intensifying these contacts in the coming weeks and I have also asked the Slovenian Presidency to make this a main item for discussion at the next Agriculture Council of Ministers meeting on 18 February".

Minister Coughlan has arranged a meeting with her French counterpart, Mr Michel Barnier, on Wednesday next to discuss the future approach to negotiations. Senior officials from her Department had visited Warsaw last week for a bilateral meeting on WTO developments with the Polish agriculture authorities and further contacts with other Member States will take place in the run up to next weeks Council of Ministers meeting.

11 February, 2008

Date Released: 11 February 2008