Belfast Telegraph

Mercosur trade deal ‘disappointing’ for Ireland, Doherty says

Environmental groups and beef farmers have hit out at the agreement.

Regina Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)
Regina Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)

The EU’s trade deal with South America countries is “disappointing” and “not satisfactory” for Ireland, Employment Affairs Minister Regina Doherty has told the Dail.

Ms Doherty said Ireland was not the only EU country that would feel the “negative connotations” of the Mercosur deal but she said the text of the agreement was not yet complete and the details would take some time to iron out.

The proposed agreement between the EU and a group of countries including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, was reached last week after 20 years of talks.

It has been heavily criticised by environmental groups and by beef farmers who believe it will lead to poorer quality beef flooding the EU market at the expense of Irish farmers.

Questioned by Fianna Fail’s Dara Calleary about whether the government should be endorsing the deal and pressed on whether she was standing on Agriculture Minister Michael Creed’s team or whether she was standing with beef and poultry farmers, Ms Doherty said she was “on Team Ireland” and wanted to limit any potential negative impact of the deal.

The agreement, which includes a significant tariff rate quota that'll allow beef imports from Mercosur countries, obviously is a disappointment to every one of us Regina Doherty

The Meath TD made the comments as she stood in for Tanaiste Simon Coveney during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday.

“The agreement, which includes a significant tariff rate quota that’ll allow beef imports from Mercosur countries, obviously is a disappointment to every one of us,” Ms Doherty said.

“That’s why we’ve been working for the last number of years to bring it from where it was to where it is now but I think as you can agree there’s a long way to go.”

She added: “It is disappointing.” But she said the Irish government would continue to work hard with colleagues in Europe “to try to mitigate the impacts” of the agreement as it currently stands.

“What is agreed today is not satisfactory from our perspective but also equally is not satisfactory from other people’s perspectives across Europe,” she added.

“The Taoiseach was fairly clear yesterday and the day before that we’ll work over the next couple of years with the influence we have collegiately with other countries and with our Commissioner… to make sure we reduce the impact on our beef and poultry sectors.”

She warned it could take “at least two years” if not longer to agree and align with others to ensure a level playing field across governance, across carbon production and across quality was reached.

In response Fianna Fail’s deputy leader said “everybody’s on Team Ireland”  but that the government was “abandoning our core agricultural industry”.

“Minister (Michael) Creed is on Team Ireland but he fell asleep when he was on the pitch,” Mr Calleary claimed.

“Is Commissioner (Phil) Hogan on Team Ireland?

“Commissioner Hogan is the cheerleader of this deal but I’ve noticed there’s more Fine Gael tanks being placed on Commissioner Hogan’s lawn that we’ll see in Washington later today because he’s going to become your scapegoat for this.

“Our beef farmers, our poultry farmers and our pig farmers are on Team Ireland but they’re not really feeling the team spirit at this stage because they’ve been thrown to the wolves.”

He continued: “So many people in this country are on Team Ireland in terms of our climate and what do they see?

“They see our government acquiescing to a deal that rewards climate change deniers, that rewards the destruction of rain forest, that rewards low standards.”

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