Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar has said that the Government will not ratify the Mercosur trade agreement.
Speaking during an interview on RTÉ Morning Ireland on Friday following the launch of the Government’s Climate Action Plan, the Táinaiste said: “This Government will not sign up to that agreement and we won’t ratify it or vote for it because we’re not satisfied with the environmental protections that are contained in the agreement.”
The Fine Gael leader outlined that “we’re not alone” in this position and that “France is with us” along with “Austria and other countries”.
Following criticism by the opposition in recent days of the Government’s apparent position on Mercosur, which was reported by the Irish Farmers Journal, the Tánaiste said: “There is a lot of misinformation being put out by opposition, particularly the main opposition party, and that position [on Mercosur] has not been ratified.”
Deputy Varadkar described his dissatisfaction with the environmental credentials of Brazilian produce as the main reason for the Irish Government to oppose the agreement, but said Irish agriculture must “pull its socks up” on its own green credentials.
He continued: “For me to make that argument [against Mercosur] credible in Brussels, and in Geneva, we need to pull our socks up environmentally.
“We can’t say that we’re against ratifying that agreement because we want to protect our own farmers. That won’t wash. We have to say that we’re against ratifying that agreement because the environmental standards in Brazil aren’t high enough.
“We have to do better to be credible, you know; we can’t be giving out about Brazil cutting down rainforests when they have more trees than us.”
Stabilisation of herd
When asked to clarify Government’s position on the national herd, the Tánaiste said: “Nobody is being told to shrink the size of their herd.”
“They are being told to finish animals earlier. They are being asked to use urea fertiliser rather than nitrate fertiliser. They are being asked to use low carbon systems for slurry.”
He said that he wanted to be “very clear on this” and said that Government does “not want to reduce food production”.
Deputy Varadkar explained that Ireland feeds 45m people worldwide, nine times the number of people we have in the country and said that is something he is “very proud of”.
He concluded: “We believe it is possible to reduce bovine methane emissions by 10% without reducing production. In fact, there are serious scientists in agriculture who believe that through the use of feed additives and also breeding, we can reduce the emissions from each cow by as much as 40% to 50%.”