Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has welcomed the removal of beef from the current trade negotiations between the EU and Mercosur bloc of South American countries.
Commenting Mr. Nicholson said: “This week’s announcement that the European Commission have removed beef from their initial offer in relation to the current EU/Mercosur trade talks is a welcome development.
“There are serious concerns that opening up the EU marketplace to cheaper beef imports would have a huge impact on Northern Ireland’s farmers and the EU beef sector.
“I have been pushing hard to have beef removed from the negotiations which have stepped up a gear, particularly since a change of government in Argentina last year. In recent weeks I have raised local industry concerns with the Agriculture Commissioner, Trade Commissioner and President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.”
Mr. Nicholson also recently hosted a hearing in the European Parliament which brought together a range of agri stakeholders to consider the potential implications of any trade agreement with Mercosur for agriculture.
Mr Nicholson concluded: “Trade is important for the economy but so is the local agricultural industry - agriculture must not be used as a bargaining chip to secure a trade deal between the EU and Mercosur.
“Beef being taken off the table is welcome but it must be kept off the table - I will continue to fight for the local agricultural industry as a whole as the negotiations with Mercosur develop.”