EU free trade agreements aid the development of the Irish agri-food sector.

However, all negotiations must weigh up the positive and negative impacts of each deal on the sector, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon has said.

Minister Heydon made the remarks at a Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday 20 July, where the US Secretary for Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined EU ministers in a discussion heavily featuring the topic of EU-US trade.

The minister’s statement indicated that the meeting was constructive and he voiced his belief in the continued co-operation of the EU and the US on trade and climate challenges.

“Ireland has always considered the overall balance of free trade agreements to be largely positive, but we must remain vigilant about the potential impact on sensitive sectors of negotiations with, for example, New Zealand and Australia,” Minister Heydon said.


Minister Heydon, who is responsible for the development of new markets in the Department of Agriculture, made special mention of the contentious Mercosur trade deal and stated that the beef sector may be particularly sensitive to external market pressure.

“We support the Commission’s efforts to have additional, robust and legally enforceable commitments on environmental and climate action added to this agreement,” the minister continued, in reference to the deal with the South American trading bloc.

“These commitments should include a sanction regime for non-compliance including the potential removal of preferential tariff rate quotas,” he added.

Organic action plan

The minister also reiterated his department’s backing of the conclusions of the action plan for the development of organic production in the EU, which was adopted on Tuesday.

"Ireland agrees that organic farming makes a very important contribution to ensuring the sustainability of European agriculture and food production.

“We have welcomed the action plan and supported the adoption of the council conclusions, while also highlighting the need to ensure a market-oriented approach,” he finished.