Ireland could ‘frustrate’ South American countries in beef deal, Creed says

Minister repeats claims they could ‘thwart, limit, frustrate’ South American countries

Ireland has the opportunity to ensure legally watertight conditions are included in the EU trade agreement with the Mercosur countries that they will "struggle to meet," Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has said.

He repeated comments he made last week that that they could “thwart, limit and frustrate” the ambition of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on the section of the trade agreement dealing with beef, which he described as “really challenging” for Irish farmers.

He told the Opposition it was important “not to get into the trap of talking about this agreement as if it is a done deal”.

There were heated exchanges as Mr Creed and Minister for Business Heather Humphreys responded to the Opposition during a two-hour question and answer session in the Dáil.


Mr Creed repeatedly stated that “this is not a done deal”.

The debate followed the announcement 12 days ago of the agreement after 20 years of negotiation. It includes major trade opportunities for a number of industries but as currently drafted will have most impact in agricultures because of the section agreeing the importation to the EU of 90,000 tonnes of beef, 180 tonnes of poultry meat and 25,000 tonnes of pig meat a year.

Ms Humphreys said that trade deals had been good for Ireland and last year Ireland exported €316 billion in goods and services, an increase of 74 per cent over the last five years. She said 60 Irish companies were involved in the automotive sector, one of the areas set to benefit hugely in the deal with the export of European cars to South America.

Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Charlie McConalogue said the agreement demonstrated the “failure of the Irish Government” and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to ensure the deal was balanced for Ireland.

He accused the Minister of “fudging the issue” about whether it would be full carcasses that would be imported or prime steak cuts.

Mr Creed told him the only thing agreed was 55 per cent fresh and 45 per cent frozen beef. He believed that the carcass equivalent weight referred to a full carcass not bits of it, and they had the opportunity to ensure this was the case.

Meeting the challenges

Sinn Féin environment spokesman Brian Stanley said farmers had seen the sell out of the sugar beet industry through international trade deals and the beef sector was now affected.

He asked how the EU was going to police the deal when criminal gangs were clearing people off lands to make way for beef barons to take over.

Ms Humphreys said the parties will have to respect all international agreements on environment, human rights and labour law and comply with international standards.

They will have to cut emissions by 35 per cent by 2027 compared to what they were in 2005 and re-forest 12 million hectares.

“If they don’t comply with those then the deal is void,” she said.

Mr Creed insisted there was an opportunity to stitch conditions into the deal that will make it “absolutely legally watertight” and “hopefully will thwart the ambition they have to meet the challenges” in the deal.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said they had been presented with a free trade agreement but when they started out they wanted a "genuine development partnership" between the EU and South America.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the deal was a sell out and had been facilitated by Ireland selling out its veto through the Lisbon Treaty and "we can vote against this but it won't make any difference because we sold out our veto".

Mr Creed told Mr Boyd Barrett that “you are consistent, you consistently oppose every trade agreement”.

The Minister said Ireland exported to 180 countries through trade agreements.

There were opportunities and challenges.

“We have a situation where the element of this trade proposal on beef is really challenging for our beef sector,” but he stressed “it is not a done deal”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times