IFA Accuses EU Trade Commissioner of Naivety in Mercosur Negotiations

Fri, 23 Mar 2018

EU - IFA President Joe Healy said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is extremely naive to believe that the Brazilians are going to conform to the rules in any Mercosur trade agreement with the EU, especially with regard to meeting EU standards on beef or other meat imports.

He said it is clear Commissioner Malmstrom is out of her depth in these negotiations and the Brazilians are pulling the wool over her eyes on the critical issue of standards.

Mr Healy said the record speaks for itself and EU audits show that for the last 18 years the Brazilians have consistently failed to meet EU standards on the critical issues of traceability, food safety, animal and plant health, environmental and labour standards.

He said, "The Brazilians have thrown away the rule book, the latest example being the major meat scandal and fraud 'Weak Flesh' from this time last year, which is still running at the very highest administration and political levels in Brazil."

Mr Healy said in the last two weeks more scandals have emerged in Brazil, involving more meat plants being delisted, new arrests, bribes, investigations into certified laboratories and officials, all revealing that there is a lot more to run on this saga in Brazil.

The IFA President said Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan cannot allow Commissioner Malmstrom to make any additional offers to the Brazilians in the Mercosur trade negotiations.

He said, "Commissioner Malmstrom has already gone way too far in her reckless sell out of European beef farmers for the benefit of Brazilian big business and the European auto sector.

"The only thing we have seen from Commissioner Malmstrom in these negotiations is giveaway after giveaway of the European meat sector, with little or nothing in return.

"The Commissioner has already capitulated to the Brazilians in these negotiations, moving from an offer 45,000t to 70,000t and now the Brazilians are looking for way more."

IFA National Livestock Chairman Angus Woods said EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has to face down the Trade Commissioner and insist that the EU does not give any more concessions to the Brazilians.

He said talk of the EU Commission renegotiating existing TRQ (tariff rate quotas) to give further concessions to the Brazilians by giving them access for more extensive meat cuts is nothing short of a three-card trick and that farmers won’t fall for this.

"Commissioner Hogan must stop this slight of hand by Commissioner Malmstrom and not allow the EU conceding on the double," he said.

Mr Woods accused the Trade Commissioner of blatantly undermining European policy and values on the environment and animal welfare.

He said, "One arm of the Commission is prepared to do this deal and undermine the environment and animal welfare, while European farmers are lectured on climate change and maintaining the highest welfare standards."

He said Irish beef production is four times more carbon efficient than Brazil where growth is driven on the back of destruction of the rainforests.

"The negotiating strategy flies in the face of everything that the EU stands for, and what is happening in terms of Brexit.

"Beef is more important to Ireland than any other member state. Commissioner Hogan cannot agree to a Mercosur deal involving a major increase in substandard beef imports from Brazil at the same time as we face into the serious challenges of Brexit."

With Brexit, the EU beef market would be 116 per cent self-sufficient. Mr Woods said to negotiate a trade deal with Mercosur at this time makes no sense whatsoever.

IFA Poultry Chairman Andy Boylan warned the European poultry industry must not be used as a pawn in the Mercosur negotiations.

He said, "Standards in the poultry production chain in Mercosur nations, especially Brazil, have been proved to be completely substandard and bear no resemblance to the high standard that Irish poultry producers operate to under the Bord Bia Quality Assurance standard."