JANUARY 2020 www.irishfarmersmonthly.com world. Some people feel left behind by trade and that’s an issue where we need to improve the benefits of free trade for everybody. We need to target small and medium enterprises and increase support to them so that they can take full advantage of stronger trade relationships across the world, where duties and tariffs are reduced or eliminated and where sanitary and phytosanitary barriers are removed. This must be centre stage in our trade strategies so that smaller businesses can benefit more, creating jobs in the regional areas of the EU.” The balances of trade Irish farmers are, understandably, worried about some aspects of trade agreements completed by the EU. Commissioner Hogan takes a pragmatic view of the situation: “What should be remembered is that there are benefits for European farmers in all of these trade initiatives. We shouldn’t forget the 65,000 tonnes of beef quota for European beef exported into Japan as well as the full liberalisation of dairy exports to that country. Add on the 45,000-tonne beef export concession to Mexico as well as a sizeable milk powder export quota as part of the overall trade agreement with Mexico. Even as regards Mercosur, we agreed concessions on infant formula grade Interview EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan, Glanbia Co-op members, staff and guests gather for the unveiling of a plaque to mark Kilkenny Creamery, which operated at the site from 1916 to 1994. Glanbia Ireland’s Kilkenny Food Company, which produces the Avonmore brand soup, now stands at the same location. Commissioner Hogan’s grandfather and father were both dairy farmers who supplied the creamery. Photo: Dylan Vaughan. coming months.” “Higher standards carry higher costs and our aim in the Commission is that more of the benefits of trading high quality produce get back to the primary producer. That’s a challenge and it is not happening enough, particularly in Higher standards carry higher costs and our aim in the Commission is that more of the benefits of trading high quality produce get back to the primary producer. milk powder exports to the South American trade area.” “There are a lot of worries around beef because of low prices. EU beef consumption is dropping, while we are trying to retain the highest possible standards from production through to consumption. That’s why it’s important to realise that the Mercosur deal, particularly, is all about trying to protect standards. There must a protection of EU standards so that we will not have a back door between the UK and the Mercosur countries for lower quality, inferior produce to enter the EU. We are watching this very carefully. Any future trade negotiations with the United Kingdom must be based on a level field regarding standards so that Irish farmers can continue to have full access to the European market as well as to the UK market. Our hope is that we can commit the Mercosur countries to the same standards as apply within Europe.” “If the UK, post Brexit, commits to the same standards as are applied presently then there will not be a wide divergence that would hamper a trade agreement. I believe we will have a political agreement during 2020 and perhaps we can do even more because we are not starting from scratch. If we have a pragmatic approach from both sides, with the same standards applying, then fair competition can take place. That includes standards in relation to food, the environment, labour rights and State Aids. If agreement is available on all of these, then we can make a lot of progress on other areas in the the beef sector right now. EU meat consumption is falling and veganism is rising. Some people are being influenced by information and sometimes misinformation around livestock production and it must be challenged.” A full trade agenda To say that Phil Hogan has a full agenda as Trade Commissioner would be an understatement: “When President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, asked me to take on the job she outlined the priorities. They included resetting the relationship between the EU and the US; levelling the playing field between the European Union and China in relation to doing business; reforming the World Trade Organisation so that we can have a referee which can resolve disputes; and engaging in trade deals with African countries and with the United Kingdom after Brexit. These are the urgent priorities so negotiations with Australia and New Zealand, for instance, are further down the list. In the context of Brexit, the fact that there is a majority government in place will facilitate stability and predictability for our economies to develop a positive future relationship. That can only come about through an agreement as soon as possible with the United Kingdom that gives us frictionless trade on a level, competitive field. If we can achieve that, then 2020 will be a good year.” 11