Portuguese EU presidency sparks Mercosur concerns for Cullinan
The Tánaiste (who also serves as Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment) was addressing the Co. Kerry IFA AGM yesterday evening (Tuesday, February 23).
Many topics came up for discussion during Minister Varadkar’s address and subsequent question and answer session, but the Mercosur agreement and the potential trade treaty that might arise from it – pending ratification by the EU member states – took up the largest share of the conversation.
During the course of his opening address, the Tánaiste said that talks on the final ratification of a trade deal “seem to be held-up at the moment”, commenting that he was “not too bothered about it being held-up for a while, because we have real concerns around the environmental protections”.
The EU-Mercosur trade agreement, if ratified in its current form, would see the amount of beef that could be imported into the EU from Mercosur (whose members are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay) without tariffs increase by 99,000t.
Of the four Mercosur members, Brazil often comes in for criticism from European politicians and farm organisations, due to the removal of large swathes of rainforest to make room for pasture for beef farming.
Addressing the Mercosur problem, Tim Cullinan expressed misgivings over Portugal – which holds the EU presidency until June – and its attitude to the trade agreement.
“We would like to sit down with you on Mercosur. I had a meeting with the Commissioner for Agriculture last week, and I’m very concerned. I’m also very concerned with the Portuguese presidency. There is a strong possibility they could move forward and try to do a trade deal,” Cullinan told Minister Varadkar.
Brazil is a former colony of Portugal, and the official language of Brazil is Portuguese. The two countries already have strong economic, cultural and social ties.
“The risk of [a trade deal being ratified] and the risk of the UK doing a separate trade deal as well, is very, very worrying for us. We need your help around this. This is critical. If another [99,000t] comes in, we won’t have farmers farming here in the likes of Co. Kerry. It’s as simple as that,” the IFA president told the Tánaiste.