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McConalogue emphasises ongoing need for balanced free trade agreements and comprehensive assessment of cumulative impacts

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today set out the key principles that in his view should inform the negotiation and implementation of EU trade agreements with third countries.

Speaking in the course of today’s informal meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers, Minister McConalogue emphasised that such agreements must be balanced, and must be based on thorough analysis and assessment, including in relation to their cumulative impact, particularly on sensitive sectors such as beef.

The Minister said, “It is essential that we have balanced agreements, which serve both our offensive and our defensive interests, for example in striking the right balance between the protection of sensitive products and securing increased market access for exported products.  They must also ensure that there is a level playing field in relation to, for example, the environmental sustainability of production systems in the EU and in our trading partners. And it is critical that the cumulative impact of multiple trade agreements is fully taken into account. For example, throughout the Mercosur negotiations, we consistently called for the Commission’s 2016 study of cumulative impacts to be updated in relation to sensitive products. Market access offers to countries currently engaged in negotiations with the EU should be fully informed by the findings of this updated study, which will be published shortly.”

Making further particular reference to the EU-Mercosur agreement, the Minister state, “With regard to Mercosur, I want to emphasise my concerns once again about the negative impact on the agriculture sector, and in particular on the beef sector. It is also very important that the sustainability chapter of the agreement is respected and rigorously enforced.” 

With regard to fisheries, Minister McConalogue said, “This meeting was my first opportunity to  put before the Council of Fisheries Ministers Ireland’s serious concerns that a disproportionate burden is being  borne by Ireland in relation to the package of fish quotas being transferred from the EU to the UK under the new Trade & Cooperation Agreement. Ireland’s concerns in this respect have been raised at the highest level, and Ireland is awaiting to hear how this matter will be urgently addressed.”

Minister McConalogue added, “As this is the first year of EU/UK discussions on future Total Allowable Catches in our shared fisheries, I made clear that Ministers at Council must have a direct engagement in the negotiations to ensure that the fishing industry and other stakeholders have confidence that their concerns and voices are heard and understood.”

The meeting focused on the preparation for discussions between the EU Commission and the UK on setting Total Allowable Catches and fish quotas for 2021. The existing provisional fish quotas, set at the December Council, were for a three-month period ending in March. The full year Total Allowable Catches for 2021 in all the fisheries must be negotiated with the UK before end March. As these are the first formal discussions under the new EU/UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement, new procedures for interactions with the UK are being put in place. Member States’ priorities for the negotiations were discussed at this meeting.

The Minister clarified, “In relation to setting TACs for 2021, I made clear that Ireland is fully committed to respecting setting quotas in line with fishing at maximum sustainable levels (MSY) where this is known, and for other stocks all available data and information must inform TAC setting.”

Ministers also discussed the ongoing CAP negotiations. Supporting the increased environmental ambition of the CAP, Minister McConalogue called for appropriate flexibility for Member States in the drafting of their CAP Strategic Plans and interventions, including Eco-schemes. 

“We need to avoid overly-prescriptive, ‘one size fits all’ outcomes,” the Minister said.