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Minister Smith calls for discussion of Mercosur at EU Agriculture Council

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, yesterday called for a full discussion at next week's meeting of Agriculture Ministers of the recent announcement by the Commission to re-open negotiations with Mercosur.

Negotiations for an agreement with the Mercosur group of South American countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) for an Association agreement to include a Free Trade Agreement were originally launched in 1999.  After 16 rounds of negotiations, they were effectively suspended in 2004. At the time of suspension of negotiations, there were major differences between the two sides in expectations across a range of headings including industrial goods, agriculture, services and intellectual property.  On agriculture, Mercosur wanted substantial additional market access to the EU market for products deemed sensitive in the EU especially beef.

The Minister said that Ireland has worked together with France, Austria, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary and Poland, to prepare a paper for discussion at the next Agriculture Council on 17 May in order to voice our shared concerns about the potential impact on EU agriculture sector and in particular the beef market.

In this paper, we have asked the Commission to provide a detailed analysis of the impact of these negotiations and to clarify the terms and conditions under which they are being re-launched, the Minister said.  We have made clear our very serious concerns at the possible impact of these negotiations. There is a shared belief that the announcement sends a highly negative signal for European agriculture, which is already faced with very significant challenges.

We have asked the Commission to ensure that these negotiations do not impair the social and economic balance of European agriculture, in the context that our legitimate choices in favour of quality, health, the environment, regional balance and animal welfare have an impact in terms of competitiveness of our agricultural sector compared to third countries like those of Mercosur

Date Released: 12 May 2010