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EC Fires Starting Gun for EU-US Trade Talks

19 March 2013

EU - The European Commission last week agreed the draft mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement with the United States, effectively firing the starting gun for what is hoped to be a relatively quick negotiation.

The draft mandate will be sent to the Council for the Member States to approve it before negotiations can start.

"I am very pleased that just one month after the announcement by the EU and the US to go for this ‘game-changing’ trade deal, the European Commission is ready with a proposed mandate for the future negotiations. We can now roll up our sleeves up and get down to the business of preparing negotiations," said European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. "I hope that Member States will now quickly decide to open negotiations so work can begin with the United States before the summer break."

Last month, President of the US, Barack Obama, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced they were each starting the internal procedures necessary to launch negotiations on the much awaited trade agreement (MEMO/13/95).

The negotiations will be based on the work of the EU-US High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth co-chaired by Commissioner De Gucht and United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

IFA National Livestock Committee Chairman Henry Burns said both Irish and European negotiators need to be extremely careful that the important agriculture sector and particularly Ireland's €2bn beef and livestock production is not placed in the firing line and sacrificed in these negotiations.

Mr Burns said the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Trade Minister Richard Bruton need to be very strong to ensure that the real concerns of the Irish beef and livestock sector are not brushed aside in the drive to secure an EU-US trade deal. He said there is no doubt the US will be seeking a substantial increase in the volume of beef imports into the valuable EU market.

The IFA livestock leader said the European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht is proposing to inflict severe damage on the Irish and European livestock sector with a substantial increase in beef imports from a EU-Canada trade deal. He said Commissioner de Gucht cannot be allowed to negotiate in a similar damaging way in the EU-US negotiations.

Mr Burns said any increase in beef imports into the European Union will have very damaging economic, environmental and social consequences across rural communities in Ireland and Western Europe that depend on livestock production for their livelihoods.

The IFA livestock leader said the EU Commission cannot agree to any beef imports which fail to meet EU standards on the critical issues of food safety, traceability, environmental protection and animal welfare. In addition, he said European consumers have real concerns with production systems where hormones and ractopamine are used, pointing out that these are banned in the European Union.

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