Speaking this week following reports that Minister Heather Humphreys had approved a mandate for the European Commission to enter into Free Trade Negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said:
“The pace and depth at which EU free trade agreements are being negotiated is extremely concerning.
“Just last month, the European Commission concluded a Free Trade deal with Mexico in a record speed of under two years. The complete lack of transparency during this process means that the fact that a tariff free quota of 10,000tn for Mexican beef was agreed is still unknown to most.
“It’s not just the cumulative effect of this, the recently agreed Canadian deal and the ongoing Mercosur talks that raise concerns, but also the fact that there has been zero debate at national level about the damage these deals could do to workers rights, environmental standards and of course sensitive sectors such as agriculture.
“As one of the negotiators of the European Parliament’s submission to the New Zealand and Australian FTAs, I argued for the exclusion of certain sectors from the mandate.
“Once again of course while we have been told that a mandate has been agreed, the parameters and detail of that mandate remain a secret.
“These are agreements the European Commission’s own impact assessments issue caution over. Increased market access for primary agriculture will negatively affect the standard of living and traditional lifestyle of small farmers in Ireland and across the EU.
“Adverse impacts on rural employment in both skilled and unskilled agricultural labour are also predicted by these impact assessments.
“It is disappointing that Minister Humphreys has signed up to a mandate at EU level for another potentially dangerous trade deal without initiating a debate on this issue at home. If there are overriding priorities that the Government puts ahead of protecting rural Ireland and the agricultural sector, then it should be upfront about that.
“It is bizarre, and quite frankly unacceptable, that the Minister, as someone from a rural community, would agree to open negotiations on yet two more free trade agreements in a back room before a national study is even conducted on the cumulative effect of these and other free trade deals. She should explain her reasons for doing so.”