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Minister Coughlan’s concerns for beef industry paradoxical

18 March, 2008

Sinn Féin TD and Agriculture Spokesperson Martin Ferris has described Minister Coughlan's 'concerns' in relation to the future of the Irish beef and dairy industry as 'paradoxical' to her government's position on the Lisbon Treaty.

Deputy Ferris said:

"Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan has raised concerns about the beef and dairy industry arising out the EU Commissions acceptance of major increases in imports as proposed by the WTO. Fianna Fáil MEP Seán Ó Neachtain has criticised EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson for seeking too large a cut in tariffs for beef imports during the current WTO negotiations.

"Paradoxically this government will bemoan the EU Commissions efforts to dilute trade barriers to the cost of the Irish beef industry yet in the same breath urge farmers to vote in favour of the Lisbon Treaty which would copper-fasten such policies if it comes into being.

"Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty gives the European Commission 'exclusive competence' over international trade agreements. Article 10 of the Treaty makes 'the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade' a key aim of the EU. Article 188 states that decisions on international trade will be taken by qualified majority vote.

"The Lisbon Treaty will empower the European Commission to accelerate its existing approach to international trade, as exampled by Peter Mandelson, regardless of the cost to Irish farmers.

"It will remove the ability of the Irish government to influence the detail of trade negotiations or block there outcome if they are not in our interest.

"In addition Article 9 of the Treaty removes Ireland's right to a European Commissioner for 5 out of every 15 years. This means that when the Commission is discussing the detail of such international trade negotiations there may not even be an Irish voice at the table.

"Last week an opinion piece by the Editor of the Farmers Journal likened the beef industry's fate to that of Irish sugar beet should Mandelson's package of proposals at WTO talks be accepted as the European position.

"Minister Coughlan is absolutely right to be concerned at the actions of the EU Commission, however she should also be concerned with the significant increase in powers it will have if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified and its effect on the farming industry as a whole." ENDS

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