October 7, 2022
Government position on Mercosur trade deal “must go beyond lip service” – Matt Carthy TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said the Tánaiste and government are paying lip service to climate action as it relates to an EU trade agenda that includes the agreement with Mercosur countries.

He called on the government to immediately end any further progress of the agreement, which would allow for the importation of 100,000 additional tonnes of beef into the EU market.  

Teachta Carthy said:

“It is beyond ironic that, while in Ireland, there has been a sustained discussion on the role of agriculture in our domestic carbon emissions, the Brazilian meat industry was unveiling plans to increase the cattle herd there by 6.5million in order to meet projected export demand.  

“This increase represents the equivalent of this state’s entire beef and dairy herd. 

“In the meantime, the Tánaiste’s most recent declaration of seeking ‘further enforceable commitments on climate and deforestation’ makes a mockery of commitment to climate action, and at a stretch could be described as climate rhetoric.

“Due to pressure from farm organisations and Sinn Féin, government ministers have told the Dáil that they are now opposed to the EU-Mercosur trade deal.  But, they have yet to act on this and tell the European Commission.  

“Unfortunately, based on the Tánaiste’s response to my Dáil question, it appears this may be because the government is backsliding, and will now be contented with new so-called ‘commitments’ from Mercosur states.

“Pound for pound the beef produced through Irish suckler herds is significantly more sustainable than that which this deal would replace it with.  There are no commitments that would be sufficient to justify such a replacement.

“EU Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius has indicated that he expects the EU-Mercosur trade deal to advance by the end of this year, thereby facilitating the importation of a significant amount of that Brazilian beef into Europe.

“Irish farmers can and must take measures to reduce emissions.  But we cannot expect those actions to be taken while the European Commission is preparing to sign off on a trade deal that will undo any positive impact of our domestic actions.  

“Ireland has a veto on this trade deal, and the government must inform the EU that we intend to use it and thereby end any further progress on this disastrous agreement.  

“The Mercosur trade deal offers nothing positive for Ireland. It is bad for our most important indigenous sector, bad for our overall economy and disastrous for the environment.  

“It must be rejected, now.”

ENDS

Note: See response to Parliamentary Question below

For Written Answer on : 27/09/2022Question Number(s): 6 Question Reference(s): 46667/22Department: Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Asked by: Matt Carthy T.D.

______________________________________________

QUESTION

To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise; Trade and Employment the recent engagements that he has had with his European Union counterparts regarding the European Union-Mercosur trade agreement; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

As the Deputy will be aware, the EU reached political agreement in their trade negotiations with the Mercosur region in June 2019. The Agreement will cement the close political and economic relations between the EU and Mercosur countries and represents a clear commitment from both regions to rules-based international trade. 

In 2021, Ireland exported nearly €0.5 billion worth of goods to the Mercosur region. In 2020 – the most recent year for which figures are available – Ireland exported approximately €1 billion worth of services to Mercosur. The independent impact assessment commissioned by my Department, and published last July, concluded that Irish exports to the Mercosur market are expected to be 17% higher in 2035 under the terms of the Agreement. 

However, we also have some well-known concerns regarding climate change and the environmental impact of the extensive forest fires we have seen in the Amazon. I have raised these concerns at all political levels, including through my engagement with the Commission and with Trade Minister colleagues in Council. 

Specifically, at a meeting of the EU’s Trade Council in Berlin in September 2020, I took the opportunity to remind both the Commission, and my counterparts, that enforceable guarantees which strengthen environmental protections, particularly with regard to the Amazon rainforest and climate action, are a priority for this Government in terms of our assessment of the benefits of the Agreement when it is formally presented for decision. Furthermore, there was a discussion on the EU-Mercosur Agreement at the meeting of EU Trade Ministers in Brussels in May 2021 at which I restated my and our Government’s position on these important issues. Following these discussions, I took the opportunity to write to EU Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner Dombrovskis in June 2021 to restate Ireland’s position, as well as to address other Trade Policy matters. 

On the basis of these concerns, raised by Ireland and other EU Member States, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) are engaged with the Mercosur countries on negotiating further enforceable commitments on climate and deforestation. 

Finally, both I and officials from my Department and across Government have continued to articulate our clear position regarding this Agreement at the highest level in the EU, including in bilateral conversations with colleague Trade Ministers in the margins of EU Council meetings.

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