Nicholson discusses trade with US Secretary

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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has made it clear to the United States administration that he will not accept any trade deal between the US and the EU if agriculture is used as a bargaining chip.

His comments came as US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack met with MEPs to discuss ‘TTIP’ – the potential transatlantic trade agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and US.

Speaking after the meeting with Mr Vilsack, who has also served as Governor of Iowa, Mr Nicholson said: “From speaking recently with Senators and Congressmen in Washington, it became clear to me that on both sides, agriculture is the issue that will make or break TTIP. Having now heard directly from the Obama administration, I am even more convinced that this is the case.

“As co-author of the Agriculture Committee’s recommendations on TTIP, I have made it crystal clear that I don’t want our agri-food industry to be used as a bargaining chip in these on-going negotiations. Both sides have sectors to defend, and I am certainly not going to stand by and see our suckler beef sector wiped out, for example.

“But there is a lot to be gained for everybody in a successful agreement. If we can get it right, and strike a fair balance that protects our vulnerable sectors, there is immense potential for Northern Ireland.

“But if we don’t get it right on agriculture, on both sides of the pond, then quite frankly there can be no deal.”