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EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement: Statements (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 984 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Willie Penrose: Information on Willie Penrose Zoom on Willie Penrose] That would wipe it out altogether, which be unacceptable. Can we modify that part of the deal? Quite apart from quantity, can we deal with the issue of quality? The bottom line is that either we achieve changes to the trade deal to protect our meat industry, which has to be our first priority, or we will have to have a very serious conversation with our farmers on financial systems to allow the meat sector to diversify and secure alternative markets. Seeking alternative markets is not easy. When one sees 25,000 tonnes going somewhere, one thinks it is great, but four times that amount is coming in here. We might well see changes to beef production in other EU member states to try to create more space for our beef. I would not rule this out because grass-fed Irish beef has a lower environmental impact and is better quality. It is hormone-free, green and fresh and other member states may well, in light of their industrial bases, see benefits of giving ground to Ireland in that regard. We should try to secure that.

Calling for the scrapping of the deal is great. I am calling for it myself. However, we should be clear and we should not be trying to fool anyone. That is just populism and grandstanding, which are things of which I am sick. One has to get in there to see whether one can make effective changes because if one works global rules right, they will bring significant benefits. I hope, therefore, that what emerges is positive action on the part of our Government to achieve significant changes that will benefit Ireland.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I thank Deputy Penrose for sticking to the time limit. Deputies Paul Murphy and Boyd Barrett are sharing time. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy "This trade deal is a double whammy for the planet: it will exacerbate deforestation and encourage the production of big, dirty cars. This might just be the EU's worst trade agreement for the climate". That is the view of Perrine Fournier, a campaigner with the forestry NGO, Fern. Every time these free trade agreements, FTAs, are negotiated, the real character of the European Union is exposed as an organisation which exists to promote the interests of big business within Europe and which pays lip service to human rights, sustainability and the environment, all of which it is willing to sacrifice on the altar of profit. It is an organisation which engages in trade negotiation behind closed doors, with privileged access for big corporations while even governments fail to get access. Just recently, the French Government complained that it did not have access to the latest papers in these negotiations with Mercosur.

A couple of years ago, the EU pledged that it would halt global deforestation by 2020. In the Trade for All strategy of 2015, the EU stated, as it has on multiple occasions, that trade would be used as a lever to promote sustainable development and human rights. All of that is to be sacrificed, however, in the interests of, on the one hand, the big car companies in Europe and, on the other, big ranchers in Mercosur countries, particularly those in Brazil. That is the way these deals work. They can only be derailed by a mass movement from below of people who stand for a very different model of trade based on solidarity, mutual assistance and co-operation. This is a complete disaster for the environment and the halting of deforestation. In the context of the latter, the Bolsonaro Government has put indigenous lands demarcation under the jurisdiction of the agriculture Ministry deliberately to pave the way for the cattle and soy agribusinesses to accelerate their sweep through the Amazon. This deal makes the EU complicit in the extensive attacks on human rights the Bolsonaro Government is carrying out. During the election campaign, Bolsonaro promised to end all forms of activism in Brazil and he has begun to implement that promise since he came to power. This is a disaster for the indigenous people in Brazil in particular because at least 14 protected indigenous territories are reported to be under attack from invaders. In many cases, those invaders are sponsored by the big corporations that want them off the land so that they can raze the forests and use the ground for ranching. The Bolsonaro Government has also abolished 35 national councils of social participation involving indigenous people. That is the logic of the model of trade pursued by the European Union. It is a logic accepted by the big parties, including Fianna Fáil, when it comes to most trade agreements, and it must be resisted from below if it is to be stopped.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett This deal should be opposed completely. The Government should oppose this deal if it cares at all and if there is any meaning to its concerns about the environment, the protection of human rights and the protection of the interests of farmers. Any equivocation about that exposes whose agenda this Government and the EU are really championing, namely the agenda of big business and major corporations which could not give a hoot about climate change, the environment, the struggle of our farmers to maintain a livelihood or the struggles of indigenous people and small producers in the Mercosur countries themselves. All of those will lose out as a result of this agreement. That is extraordinary when all of the debate in this country and globally is about the need for emergency action. The Government says it is interested in the climate emergency yet it wants to sign off a deal under which we will export fossil-fuel-guzzling German cars to Mercosur countries in order that they can send us beef which is produced by cutting down thousands of square km of rainforest. Goods will travel thousands of miles to Europe, leading to more greenhouse gas emissions being pumped out, while we send manufactured cars over there to pump out more. This beggars belief. The irony is that the entire country has been gripped by the fear of Brexit but this agreement is Brexit writ large and on a scale ten to 15 times greater in respect of the race to the bottom these deals promote. It is truly shocking.

The Government states that it will carry out an economic assessment of how the deal will impact on our economy. I say, "Farmers of Ireland, beware; the sell-out is coming". Just as the fishing industry was sold out to Europe, farmers will now be sold out for the benefit of certain manufacturers, particularly in the pharmaceutical and medical instruments industries. Farmers across Europe are about to be sold out for the benefit of the German car industry. It is not just about that, however. It is also about the globe. It is about the planet that the Government states it cares so much about. In the past ten years, rainforest covering the same amount of land as Portugal has been cut down. Bolsonaro is stating unequivocally that he is a climate change denier. He does not give a damn about the climate and he is waging a war against the indigenous people, small farmers and small producers, crushing their human rights and cutting down these forests to produce cheap, lower-quality beef for the benefit of the ranchers and major agricultural producers of Latin America. This deal should be opposed root and branch. Anything less is a sell-out.

My final point is a bit of an "I told you so" but it has to be made. This deal is the reason the left opposed the Lisbon treaty and the other treaties that introduced qualified majority voting on global trade deals. We said they would lead to what we see here; an attack on environmental standards and an attack on small producers and SMEs. The chickens have come home to roost on the rotten deals signed up to by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Labour Party and so on.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan On post-European Council statements last week, I used some of my time to discuss the Mercosur deal from a number of perspectives, but not particularly that relating to Irish beef. I will begin now with those general points. The first relates to trade agreements generally and the need to proof them against climate change and the undermining of workers' rights. Free trade agreements include the investor-state dispute settlement, ISDS, which we have debated on many occasions. It is a system which threatens public budgets and the environment. At the heart of ISDS is a mechanism for foreign investors to sue national governments. Recent examples include two oil firms which used ISDS to avoid paying tax in Vietnam and a similar case in Croatia. There was also an example in France where a company was able to weaken a climate change law by threatening an ISDS suit. ISDS is biased in favour of the interests of investors at the expense of the public interest because the public cannot sue the companies involved on human rights grounds.

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