An Irish Crisis Develops in Geneva

IRELAND - The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, speaking after the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels today, re-affirmed the Government's resolve to achieve a balanced outcome to the ongoing WTO negotiations.
calendar icon 22 May 2008
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The Minister also drew attention to the passage of the Farm Bill in the United States Congress and said its thrust does not suggest that there is any appetite in Washington for a balanced deal, while in the EU we find ourselves approaching the stage where the WTO Director General is expected to call a Ministerial meeting to attempt a partial conclusion of the round.

Minister Smith said he has serious concerns with the current direction of the negotiations and with some of the proposals emanating from Geneva.

"Every proposal out of Geneva is worse than the previous one. This is a crisis."
IFA President Padraig Walshe

The Minister outlined his particular concern in relation to the possible impact of the proposals on the beef, dairy and sheepmeat sectors. Noting that Ireland had repeatedly made these points in the Agriculture and General Affairs Councils, the Minister stressed the importance of Ireland's consistent stance on the issue of WTO in all relevant EU and other fora.

“To be acceptable, a WTO agreement must be one that does not undermine EU and Irish agriculture. It must deliver real benefit to Ireland and the EU and also to developing countries.”

Irish Farmers' Association took a more agressive approach and called upon the givernment not to accept the World Trade Order deal.

IFA President Padraig Walshe said the time for Government obfuscation has now passed. He added that the Government would be in dereliction of its duty to Irish farmers and the food industry if it doesn’t tell Peter Mandelson that Ireland will block the proposals.

“There is no time to delay and I expect a clear message from the Taoiseach Brian Cowen stating the government’s opposition to the latest WTO text, which would devastate the Irish beef industry, milk prices and the sheep sector,” he said.

Mr Walshe repeated his stinging criticism of EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, who he accused of encouraging the enemies of the Common Agricultural Policy in their quest to destroy the farm family model of European food production.

The IFA President said the WTO proposals would see 700,000 tonnes of beef steak cuts imported into Europe from Brazil. “That’s 25 times the amount of Ireland’s entire output and would decimate markets, driving cattle prices down to €2/kg. That price is completely unviable and would result in Ireland’s beef herd of over 1 million cows being slaughtered.”

Mr Walshe said the WTO proposals completely ignore animal health standards, food hygiene, labour standards and environmental degradation.

“Every proposal out of Geneva is worse than the previous one. This is a crisis. I am calling on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to defend farming, to defend rural Ireland and to defend 50,000 jobs in the food industry. Tell Mandelson Ireland will not accept this deal.”

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