The Minister for Agriculture has said the Mercosur trade deal must not be spoken about as if it is a done deal.

Michael Creed the heads of agreement had been negotiated but it had not been approved by the European Parliament or by a single member state. 

The Mercosur deal includes access for 100,000 tonnes of beef imports into the European Union from Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

It would also see the four Mercosur countries slash tariffs on products coming from the EU like cars, cheese and wine.

In exchange products like beef and poultry from South America would be allowed into Europe with no tarrifs. 

Farming unions say they are not happy and they say it will result in cheap beef flooding the EU market.

Speaking in the Dáil, Minister Creed said that 99,000 tonnes of beef coming from South America was a concern. 

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys said she has regonised the concerns farmers have in relation to the deal. 

She said it was a deal that had been negotiated at EU level and the Government consistently raised concerns in relation to beef access. 

Ms Humphreys said the Government had sought to achieve the best deal possible for farmers and that the Taoiseach had joined with other EU levels in expressing concerns about beef access. 

She said the Mercosur countries were initially looking for a beef quota of 300,000 tonnes and this deal provides for 99,000 tonnes which she said is less than a third of what they originally sought. 

She said the agreement on beef access was more than the Government wanted. 
 


Read more: Govt to carry out economic assessment on Mercosur trade deal


Fianna Fáil's agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said the deal was not in Ireland's interests.

He said it was a failure of the Irish Government to oversee a situation where 99,000 tonnes of beef was part of the deal.

Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy said Ireland must trade with countries that would apply the same standards and regulatory requirements that Ireland does.

He said there was no database and no traceability of beef in Brazil. 

Sinn Féin's agriculture spokesperson Brian Stanley said Mercosur "better not" be a done deal because he said some farmers in the beef industry were "hanging on by its fingertips."

He said the EU was "taking out of both sides of their mouth" if they sign up to the deal because he said on the one hand the Government was saying it would reduce emissions and then on the other shift beef from the other side of the world. 

He said it was equivalent to shifting "ice to the North Pole where they don't need it". 

Minister Creed the conditions on standards and traceability would have to be stitched into the deal to make it legally "watertight". 


Listen: What faces the beef industry post-Mercosur?


The Minister said these would "hopefully" be conditions that Mercosur struggle to meet and ensure that the ambition of 99,000 tonnes of beef would be "thwarted". 

The Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, said the deal was a free trade agreement with "scant detail" of social and environment protection. 

He said a draft agreement does not emerge after 20 years of rigorous economic analysis without the Government knowing what each item in the agreement means. 

In response, Ms Humphreys said the Government had committed to carrying out an economic and sustainability assessment of the proposed deal.

She said the work would be undertaken by independent consultants specialising in economic and trade matters.  

She said the Government had undertaken an analysis on all trade deals but now a specific analysis on Mercosur needed to be carried out. 

Minister Creed said the Government needed to carry out an impact assessment on the pluses and the minuses of the deal. 

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the deal as a "sell out" of farmers, the environment and the battle to address the climate emergency. 

Mr Boyd Barrett said in the last ten years an area the size of Portugal has been cut down in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and he said the country was accelerating a "horrendous" programme of deforestation.