EU Commissioner – Kilkenny’s Phil Hogan – hits back in bitter beef trade row
IRELAND’S EU Commissioner, the former Kilkenny TD Phil Hogan, has come out battling after he was accused of betraying Irish farmers over the controversial trade deal with South America.
Writing in today’s Irish Independent, Mr Hogan said beef farmers and lobby groups should remind themselves of the beneficial trade deals that they have benefited from.
He insisted the EU-Mercosur agreement identifies the concerns of European beef farmers and has put in place a mechanism to protect the sector.
And he said the deal is not just about the beef sector, is an opportunity “to embrace”.
He wrote: “The commission appreciates fully the sensitivity of the beef sector in Europe. We have insisted on a Tariff Rate Quota, which puts a ceiling on the volume that can be imported at preferential tariff rates.
“In the case of beef, the quota is fixed at 99,000 tonnes. This is in the context of a total EU market of more than eight million tonnes. So the new quota represents around 1.25pc of total EU beef consumption.
“The agreement guarantees that no product will be allowed to enter the EU market unless it complies 100pc with EU standards.
“By insisting on full compliance with the EU’s strict sanitary standards, the commission is improving food safety standards in the Mercosur countries. EU food safety standards are non-negotiable and will be applied rigorously.”
Commissioner Hogan insists much consideration was taken before signing off on the trade deal.
And he reminded detractors that the EU has done trade deals in Asia and Mexico recently that were very favourable to the beef sector.
He added: “Far from being an overnight deal, the EU-Mercosur agreement was 20 years in the making and, over those 20 years, there were plenty of false dawns. As with any trade agreement, the final outcome involved a degree of compromise between the two sides.
“There are both opportunities and challenges, and nowhere is this more evident than with Ireland and agriculture.
“In the case of agriculture, the EU is undoubtedly on the defensive on this occasion, but the Mercosur balance must be viewed in the broader context of other recently concluded trade agreements with Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, and Mexico, all of which provided significant openings for Irish food exports and, in particular, 105,000 tonnes of exports of European beef. Taking all these agreements into account, the overall picture for the agri-food sector is positive.”
Commissioner Hogan also stressed that there is much time before the deal will come into effect. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Irish Government have yet to sign off on Mercosur, and Mr Flynn admitted there are lots of consequences and promises made in the deal that require careful thought.
“I welcome the Taoiseach’s commitment to undertake a detailed economic analysis of the full agreement before the Irish Government delivers its verdict,” he added.
“I also appreciate there are very genuine concerns about the potential environmental consequences of this agreement and I would invite governments to also undertake an environmental analysis.
“The agreement includes a binding commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, under which Brazil has pledged to end illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by 2030 and to restore and reforest 12 million hectares of forests.
“I hope that all interested parties will now take the necessary time to consider all the details of the agreement.”