Written Answers. - Representations To EC Commission.

Thursday, 21 February 1991

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 405 No. 5

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  17.  Mrs. T. Ahearn  Information on Theresa Ahearn  Zoom on Theresa Ahearn   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he has made any representations to the EC Commission regarding the statements made recently in Washington by Sir Leon Brittain, Vice-President of the European Commission and by the EC Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Andreas Van Agt, to the effect that he has agreed to consider quantitative limitation on agricultural export subsidies and a commitment to a guaranteed minimum of import access for US goods; and if he will outline the implications of such a policy change by the EC in the current world trade talks for Ireland.

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  18.  Mr. J. Mitchell  Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he has made any representations to the EC Commission regarding the statements made recently in Washington by Sir Leon Brittain, Vice-President of the European Commission and by the EC Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Andreas Van Agt, to the effect that he has agreed to consider quantitative limitation on agricultural export subsidies and a commitment to a guaranteed minimum of import access for US goods; and if he will outline the implications of such a policy change by the EC in the current world trade talks for Ireland.

  20.  Mr. Allen  Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he has made any representations to the EC Commission regarding the statements made recently in Washington by Sir Leon Brittain, Vice-President of the European Commission and by the EC Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Andreas Van Agt, to the effect that he has agreed to consider quantitative limitation on agricultural export subsidies and a commitment to a guaranteed minimum of import access for US goods; and if he will outline the implications of such a policy change by the EC in the current world trade talks for Ireland.

  24.  Mr. G. Mitchell  Information on Gay Mitchell  Zoom on Gay Mitchell   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he has made any representations to the EC Commission regarding the statements made recently in Washington by Sir Leon Brittain, Vice-President of the European Commission and by the EC Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Andreas Van Agt, to the effect that he has agreed to consider quantitative limitation on agricultural export subsidies and a commitment to a guaranteed minimum of import access for US goods; and if he will outline the implications of such a policy change by the EC in the current world trade talks for Ireland.

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  34.  Mr. Lowry  Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he has made any representations to the EC Commission regarding the statements made recently in Washington by Sir Leon Brittain, Vice-President of the European Commission and by the EC Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Andreas Van Agt, to the effect that he has agreed to consider quantitative limitation on agricultural export subsidies and a commitment to a guaranteed minimum of import access for US goods; and if he will outline the implications of such a policy change by the EC in the current world trade talks for Ireland.

  41.  Mr. Doyle  Information on Joseph Doyle  Zoom on Joseph Doyle   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he has made any representations to the EC Commission regarding the statements made recently in Washington by Sir Leon Brittain, Vice-President of the European Commission and by the EC Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Andreas Van Agt, to the effect that he has agreed to consider quantitative limitation on agricultural export subsidies and a commitment to a guaranteed minimum of import access for US goods; and if he will outline the implications of such a policy change by the EC in the current world trade talks for Ireland.

  47.  Mr. Cullimore  Information on Séamus Cullimore  Zoom on Séamus Cullimore   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he will outline the current situation in relation to the negotiations on agriculture under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; and if he has satisfied himself that the EC Commission is giving sufficient recognition to the serious difficulties which would be created for Irish agriculture if there are to be any further concessions to the American position.

  58.  Mr. Belton  Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton   asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food  Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy   if he has made any representations to the EC Commission regarding the statements made recently in Washington by Sir Leon Brittain, Vice-President of the European Commission and by the EC Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Andreas Van Agt, to the effect that he has agreed to consider quantitative limitation on agricultural export subsidies and a commitment to a guaranteed minimum of import access for US goods; and if he will outline the implications of such a policy change by the EC in the current world trade talks for Ireland.

[1356]Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. O'Kennedy): Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  I propose to take Parliamentary Questions Nos. 17, 18, 20, 24, 34, 41, 47 and 58 together.

The Community's agriculture offer in the context of the GATT negotiations was agreed, after lengthy discussions over a period of weeks in various Council formations, at the Agriculture Council on 5-6 November 1990. The offer provides for a 30 per cent reduction in overall support over the ten years from 1986, based on an aggregate support measurement unit together with subsidiary commitments on border measures and on export supports.

In the discussion in the Council leading up to the approval of the Community's offer we secured agreement that the fundamental principles of the CAP were not negotiable and that no specific concessions would be made in regard to individual aspects of the policy such as export refunds. The Community's global approach to the negotiations safeguards those positions. In addition, there were particular guarantees given in the Council in November that any separate undertaking on export subsidies would be incompatible with the global approach. The offer as agreed in Council in November, together with the Council declarations in relation to the conduct of the negotiations, are in effect the parameters within which the Commission, who under the Treaty are the Community's negotiators in international trade negotiations, must operate. This was the case at the GATT meeting in Brussels in December and continues to be so. While the Commission negotiators at that GATT meeting indicated that the Community may, subject to certain conditions being met, be prepared to explore the possibility of undertaking some commitments on minimum market access and on the volume of products which would be exported with export subsidies, the Council never agreed to such an approach and indeed made it clear on several occasions that the negotiators had to respect the mandate.

As the Deputies will be aware, agreement was not reached at the Brussels [1357] meeting in a number of areas of the negotiations. Instead the Director General of the GATT was requested to pursue intensive consultations with the objective of achieving agreements in all areas of the negotiating programme in which there are differences. On 20 February, the Director General on his own initiative put forward a basis for further negotiations in a number of areas including agriculture. He proposed that the agriculture negotiations proceed on the basis of specific commitments being undertaken in regard to domestic support, market access and export competition as well as on sanitary and phytosanitary issues. These suggestions were, I understand, listened to without comment by the main participants in the negotiations, including the Commission.

As I indicated earlier, the Community had already stated that it was prepared to consider reductions in export support and import barriers to the extent that these resulted from its overall offer on support adjustment. This remains the formal Community position and Ireland will continue to insist that the Commission respect the Council mandate and that no offer be made which implies a reduction in any of the mechanisms of the CAP which exceeds the agreed reduction in overall support levels.

At both of the Agriculture Councils which have been held so far this year a number of Ministers, including myself, have made clear to the Commission the necessity to respect the mandate agreed in November. I have equally made clear my opposition to any changes in the Community's position which would exceed the terms of the mandate. Changes such as those referred to by the Deputies have not been agreed by the Council and the Commission has been reminded and has accepted that the Council has to be consulted before there can be any change in the negotiating mandate. I therefore expect that the Commission will continue to defend in the GATT negotiations the broad line laid down by the Council of Ministers on 6 November. Statements by individual Commissioners or other Commission personnel on the Community's [1358] position in the negotiations have to be viewed in that context.

We have conveyed our views on this vital issue at all times at Council, in bilateral contact with the Commission and most recently at the Community delegations which assist the Commission on the GATT on the implications of the above statement of the Director General of the GATT.

The outcome of the GATT negotiations will result in reduced support and protection levels for agriculture in the Community and in the other countries participating in the Uruguay Round. This has been acknowledged since the commencement of the negotiations at Punta del Este in 1986 and indeed the reduction in support and protection is seen as essential to the achievement of a more market oriented international agricultural trading system which is one of the principal objectives of the Round. In all of this my priority will be to ensure that concessions in whatever policy area have the lowest possible impact on the Common Agricultural Policy and on Ireland's interests, both agricultural and in terms of our wider economy. To offset the impact of concessions in the GATT we obtained clear commitments on the part of the Council and Commission to come forward with a satisfactory package of complementary measures aimed particularly at the needs of the most vulnerable producers and economies. This is something that I insisted on in the discussions leading up to the adoption of the Community's offer and it should ensure that Ireland's interests can be protected in the negotiations. We also secured commitments to the effect that, irrespective of the possible cuts in support which might eventually be agreed, support targeted at the disadvantaged areas would not be reduced.


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