I am calling for Ireland to oppose the European Union’s proposed trade agreement with a bloc of South American countries because of its negative consequences for the Irish beef industry.
The so-called Mercosur proposals for trade with Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay include a provision to allow 99,000 tonnes of cheap beef from those countries into the EU each year.
These are not good proposals for the Irish beef industry.
Balanced international trade deals are important to Ireland as an open economy. However, particularly in light of the challenges presented by Brexit, it is regrettable that the proposals allow for the importation of beef into the EU at preferential tariff rates.
Irish beef farmers have embraced very high quality standards for rearing beef and have invested heavily in terms of compliance and traceability.
It is a major concern that any proposal to import beef from Mercosur would allow cheaper beef of lesser quality and less rigorous traceability to compete with Irish beef.
I am calling on the Government to ensure that every avenue for negotiation is explored and that every ally in Europe is secured to get these proposals changed.
I acknowledge the efforts to date by the Government to secure new markets for beef, including trade deals with Canada, Mexico and Japan.
However, the Mercosur proposals will be counter-productive and we need to oppose them in the strongest possible terms.
The proposals as set out were agreed by the current EU Commission in its last days of existence without the agreement of any member state or national parliament.
I believe these proposals now have to be considered in full at European level and in member states.