'Is beef still off the menu' asks Harkin (May 2016)
In response to a question from MEP Marian Harkin regarding Commissioner Phil Hogan's assertion that "beef was off the menu" for the Mercosur trade offer this week, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström refused to confirm his announcement. This was stated by Marian Harkin following a debate in the European Parliament today on the Mercosur trade deal.
"I expressed grave concerns to the Commissioner about the impact of any concessions in the sensitive beef sector. Furthermore, I asked her if she would confirm Commissioner Hogan´s statement to the Welsh farming organisation, NFU Cymru, that beef was 'off the menu' in the Mercosur trade offer expected this week. The Commissioner said she would not 'confirm today what is in and what is not'.
Speaking in the Parliament Marian Harkin stated that "one of the main issues is that farmers in the EU are not on a level playing field with South American farmers when it comes to EU standards on the environment, food safety, food traceability, consumer protection and animal welfare standards. These standards impose significant costs on EU farmers. It has been estimated that costs could exceed €200 per head. Therefore, any move on granting tariff free access to South American beef has the potential to hugely damage beef production in Europe and in Ireland.
"I have some hope that the negative reaction in the European Council to the initial proposed annual Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQ) of 78,000 tonnes of beef will probably have made the European Commission think again but it's still uncertain as to what will happen.
"What really concerns me is that the European Commission seemed to be prepared to make such a generous offer to Mercosur on top of the 50,000 tonnes of beef in the Canada-EU trade agreement without any impact assessment on the cumulative effects of these offers. We still have TTIP waiting in the wings and the United States will be watching very carefully any offers made to Mercosur countries. Vigilance and determination will be needed to defend the interests of the Irish and EU beef sector and to ensure that beef remains off the menu," Marian Harkin concluded.