Dáil Éireann - Volume 623 - 06 July, 2006
Written Answers. - World Trade Talks.
Mr. Lowry Mr. Lowry
Mr. Lowry asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food her views on the state of the World Trade Talks; if she has an assessment of the potential impact that any agreement will have on the future of Irish agriculture; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27897/06]
Mary Coughlan Mary Coughlan
 Mary Coughlan: The current negotiations on a new WTO Agreement, which cover a broad trade liberalisation agenda, have been under way since they were launched in Doha in November 2001. Significant progress towards concluding an agreement was made in the Framework Agreement which was reached in August 2004 and at the Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong in December 2005. A further WTO Ministerial meeting, held from 29 June to 1 July in Geneva, failed to make progress on outstanding issues. The Director General of the WTO has now been requested to undertake intensive and wide-ranging consultations over the coming weeks with a view to facilitating agreement on these issues by the end of July. Given the wide divergences which exist between the positions of the main negotiating partners, such agreement will be difficult to achieve.
In accordance with the Doha mandate, among the aims of the negotiations is to reduce substantially the levels of support and protection for agriculture. A new agreement will determine the levels of support which can be provided to EU agriculture, both domestically and on exports, as well as the level of tariff protection which can be applied to imports. This in turn affects the nature and level of competition which EU producers, processors and exporters will face on EU and third country markets. The WTO negotiations represent a major challenge therefore for the future of the CAP and Irish and European agriculture.
While I am committed to securing a new WTO agreement, at the same time, I am determined that this will not prevent Ireland from enjoying the benefits of a CAP and EU rural development policy that protects the agriculture and food sector and which underpins the viability of rural communities. Accordingly my objective is to ensure that any new WTO agreement can be accommodated within the terms of the recent CAP reforms and that further reform will not be required. This represents the limit of the EU Commission’s negotiating mandate as agreed, and endorsed on several occasions, by the Council of Ministers.
I will continue to take an active role in the negotiations and to work with like-minded Member States in seeking the best possible outcome for Irish and EU agriculture. My specific priorities are On domestic supports, to ensure that the EU’s system of decoupled direct payments to farmers continue to qualify as non-trade-distorting payments under the so-called WTO Green Box and so remain exempt from reductions under the new round, On Export Subsidies, to ensure that full parallel elimination of all forms of export subsidies is undertaken by all WTO member countries, as agreed in the WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, and to secure the most flexible phasing-out arrangements for EU export refunds, On Market Access,  to retain the maximum possible level of protection against increased imports into the EU, especially in sectors in which Ireland has particular interests, through minimising tariff cuts, establishing sensitive product status where necessary and through the continuation of an effective Safeguard Clause.
Dáil Éireann 623 Written Answers. World Trade Talks.