The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has warned that any attempt by the European Commission to finalise an EU-Mercosur free trade deal would shatter the Commission’s credibility on environmental policies.

Its president Denis Drennan claimed that a trade deal with the Mercosur countries would “end forever” the EU’s moves to tighten climate policy, as imports from South America would replace European goods produced to a higher standard.

Drennan called for the Irish Government to lead a group of member states which would seek the rubbishing of any prospect of an EU-Mercosur deal.

The farm leader was commenting after trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis stated last week that the “conclusion of negotiations with Mercosur” is targeted before summer 2024 when a new commission will take over.

Coverage of the commissioner’s statement has been “read with disbelief” by Irish farmers “still reeling from the severity of the restrictions and cuts that the Government have hit us with in the name of climate mitigation”, Drennan said.

Agri exports

“The principal commodity that the Mercosur countries have to export to the EU is beef and other less important agri products,” the ICMSA leader continued.

“In the event of a trade agreement being reached, those exports will be increased and produced off cleared forests – that’s not the opinion of farmers groups, it’s the opinion of every reputable analysis of the situation.

“So, the proposed Mercosur Agreement boils down to this; to facilitate EU tech and financial exports to South America, the EU proposes to facilitate South American beef imports here that will wipe out what’s left of indigenous EU beef production, while inflicting cataclysmic damage to the most important forestry left on the planet.”

Irish farmers have learned of the Commission's plans of finalising an EU-Mercosur trade agreement with disbelief, Drennan claims. / Philip Doyle

“Is there any sentient person in the EU Commission who imagines that that is a tenable policy? You’d really have to ask.”

Deal unlikely

Drennan stated that while the likelihood of a deal being struck while farmers are protesting in both France and Germany remains low, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must signal Ireland’s position on Mercosur immediately.

He claimed the commissioner’s commentary on getting an agreement before the summer came across as a case of “political deafness” and once again, questioned the rationale of a deal when Brussels was pushing green farming in the EU.

“What’s the point of this? Where is the consistency? Where’s the logic of shutting down beef production in Ireland while signalling the Brazilians that they can start clearing what’s left of the rainforests to raise lesser quality beef to export to us?”

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