Ireland still has very serious concerns about the latest proposals from the European Commission tabled at the World Trade Organisation negotiations, according to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin.

Speaking after Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson briefed Foreign Ministers in Brussels this morning, Mr Martin said the proposals were unbalanced and unacceptable to Ireland.

He said 'the risk of serious damage to European agriculture from an unsatisfactory WTO deal must be of grave concern to everyone in Europe, producers and consumers alike.'

The European Commission tabled its proposals in Geneva last week.

Peter Mandelson is keen to get a deal on agriculture and non-agricultural market access at a WTO ministerial meeting at the end of June.

He is thought to want a deal before the end of the current US administration.

At issue is how much access the agricultural products of the developing world would have to European markets and in return how much access European companies would have to the goods and services markets in the developing world.

Irish farmers have long argued that a rushed WTO deal - to be agreed at a WTO ministerial meeting - could see Brazilian and Argentinian beef imports badly affect Ireland's beef sector.

The Government is also concerned that both the pigmeat and sheepmeat sectors would be hit as well.

Micheál Martin believes the latest proposals are actually less balanced than before.

The Government has argued at the Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels that Europe is making big concessions on agriculture while there are no clear specific benefits for goods and services in return.

The Government is also concerned that new chapters on non-agricultural goods which would have access to EU markets are being opened while they had hoped this areas would be closed by now.

Ireland was joined by France, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany in objecting to the latest proposals.

A WTO ministerial meeting at the end of June would have to have unanimous agreement among all the member states of the EU as well as global ministers.

It is unlikely the WTO would call such a meeting if agreement was unlikely.

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