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Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin] We subsequently learned from documentation published last week that there are significant conditions attached, one key condition being that the measures taken by Ireland shall be aimed at reducing production or restructuring the beef and veal sector along with other objectives. We have this incredibly contradictory position whereby beef is being allowed into Europe which is being produced in an environmentally unsustainable way, while at the same time Europe is putting a condition on compensating Irish farmers around reducing beef production. In today's Irish Independent op-ed, Commissioner Hogan talks about how he would invite governments to do an environmental assessment, which is incredible. Why in the name of God did he and others not do an environmental assessment? I would point out to him the recent report from the BBC World Service indicating that the Trump of the tropics, President Bolsonaro, is accelerating rapidly the deforestation of Brazil and of the Amazon. There is only one conclusion. The BBC World Service report was aided by officials in the government of Brazil who are absolutely appalled with what is going on there. An area the size of a football pitch is being cleared every single minute, with devastating consequences for the world in terms of the climate change agenda and global warming. The response of Europe is to reward climate change deniers, essentially, and people who pay no heed to it, particularly President Bolsonaro, through this Mercosur trade deal, while hurting beef farmers who are among the most efficient in the world in terms of environmental production models and methodology. Does the Government accept that this is environmentally unsustainable as a trade deal? What strategy does it intend to deploy to deal with it?

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I thank the Deputy for raising this question. There is no doubt that it is of very significant concern. The Deputy will be aware that the Taoiseach, along with the President of France and the Prime Minister of Poland, made a very strong case even very recently. Ireland has been consistently raising this, indeed as far back as when I was Minister with responsibility for trade, and that goes back quite some time. This was an issue of very significant concern then and Irish Ministers never lost the opportunity to raise it. The original proposal sought 300,000 tonnes of beef and that would certainly have been devastating in its impact. The agreement we now have, which is only an agreement at principle level, provides for 99,000 tonnes of beef, 45% of which will be frozen. In addition, there are very clear statements that there can be absolutely no compromise on food standards that apply within the European Union markets.

The other thing that needs to be borne in mind, which is why the Taoiseach says we need a proper evaluation of the proposed deal at this stage, is that there are other benefits in it for Ireland. It includes 45,000 tonnes in the dairy sector and it includes many other sectors in which we have companies such as medical devices, pharma, chemicals, and food opportunities. Those sectors will see gains to be had in this. While the Deputy has remarked on the situation we face with Brexit as raising particular concerns, it also underlines the importance for small open economies like our own to have access to markets, particularly growth markets where we can look to the future to build opportunities. Another reason the evaluation will be important is that, contrary to what Deputy Micheál Martin is suggesting, the deal requires parties to subscribe to the Paris Agreement. It also includes specific issues around forest sustainability within these countries, so there are significant elements of environmental protection, and protection in respect of labour law and respect for international agreements such as that of the International Labour Organization. We need to take the time to evaluate this as a whole, as the Taoiseach has said. We have made our position abundantly clear throughout the very long negotiations that have taken place on it.

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