Trade deals must be ‘fair’ to local sector

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Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson has called for a “fair deal for local agriculture” in upcoming EU free trade agreements.

The comments come after a number of EU member states called for sensitive products and sectors to be protected in any trade deal between the EU and Mercosur bloc of countries.

Mr Nicholson will be hosting a hearing in the European Parliament on the proposed EU-Mercosur trade agreement in November.

Commenting, Mr Nicholson said: “Earlier this month, as part of his so-called “State of the Union” address, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker highlighted his eagerness to conclude a number of free trade deals by 2019.

“In particular, he stated his ambition to have an agreement with the Mercosur bloc of South American countries by the end of this year. I fear that if this agreement is rushed, agriculture will be used as a bargaining chip. If that is the case, the consequences for our local beef sector in particular could be seismic.

“This is a particularly bad time to open up the EU market to the meat sector in Brazil. Earlier this year, the Brazilian meat scandal hit the headlines, with allegations that some Brazilian companies had been selling unsafe produce, including rotten and substandard beef.

“It is therefore vital that we put pressure on the European Commission at this time and I will be hosting a hearing on the proposed trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur bloc in the European Parliament in November. This event will involve contributions on the issue from expert speakers and stakeholders.

“Across all the EU’s prospective free trade agreements currently on the horizon, it is vital that we get a fair deal for local agriculture - especially as it is likely that these agreements will be used as templates for our own UK free trade agreements after Brexit.”