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Coveney Expresses Strong Reservations about Mercosur Trade Talks

Speaking at the Council of EU Agriculture Ministers in Brussels yesterday, Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food Simon Coveney TD expressed his profound reservations about the ongoing trade negotiations with the Mercosur group of South American countries.

He questioned the coherence or wisdom of opening these negotiations in parallel to the ongoing process in WTO and expressed his particular concern regarding the impact a deal with MERCOSUR would have on the Irish and EU beef sector.

Minister Coveney said "I need hardly remind the Commission just how important the beef sector is to Ireland - it is our largest farming sector, and is a vital part of our export based economy, with over 80% of its output exported to other EU countries. This leaves us particularly vulnerable to any offer that is made to Mercosur in this sector."

Pointing out that any further opening of the EU beef market will inevitably lead to the Mercosur countries targeting the high value end of the market, the Minister said that "this will have a disproportionate impact on EU cattle prices and on returns to our producers." The minister also drew attention to the negative climate change impacts that would arise from replacing efficient Irish production with output from regions with higher green house gas emissions from their beef production.

Minister Coveney called for detailed analysis of impacts and full discussion in the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament before any offers are made by the Commission in the negotiations.

This position was supported by several other delegations at the Council who also called for a cautious and transparent approach by the Commission in the negotiations.

Date Released: 18 March 2011