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News 155 views last update:6 Aug 2012

Irish Minister wants protection of farmers

The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, said that the WTO negotiations in Geneva were very active, with a large number of intense meetings and informal contacts, but that there was no guarantee as to the outcome. Despite the intensity of the discussions, they are likely to continue until the weekend.

Minister Smith said that the pace of negotiations on the agriculture elements of the WTO talks had increased significantly in the last 24 hours. "The issue of the green box, which protects almost €2 billion of annual payments to Irish farmers has now come to the fore in the negotiations," he said. "Following strong pressure from Ireland, now joined by a large number of other EU countries, it has been decided to hold detailed technical discussions on this issue. I have made it clear that we will not accept any threat to these payments which account for 75% of Irish farmers' income."

A number of countries, led by Argentina, have been pressing for restrictions on the degree of protection and flexibility provided by the green box for payment schemes in the EU and other developed countries. "Ireland has been pressing hard in defence of the green box for some time now. I am very pleased that we have now been joined by a significant number of other EU Members States, and that the Commission have recognised the need for detailed technical deliberations on this issue. The defence of the green box is an absolute priority for me," Minister Smith.

The Minister said that he was also continuing to lobby hard on the issue of protecting key EU markets from the effects of tariff reductions and increased imports. At the meeting of EU Ministers today, EU Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel paid particular tribute to the persistence of Ireland on the issue of the threat to the Irish beef industry. The Minister again raised this issue today at a bilateral meeting with key Commission negotiators, which focused in particular on the threat of increased imports of high-value beef cuts and the effect they could have on the European beef market. Minister Smith said he would continue to seek the best possible degree of protection for products of key interest to Ireland.

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