Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dublin Farmer Protest

I was able to get out of work early today because an estimated 5,000 people have gathered in central Dublin for a protest by farmers against the current European proposals in negotiations on world trade.

Agri-businesses around the country are also closing this afternoon over their concerns about the trade talks, which coincide with a visit to Ireland by the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland, Irish Farmers Association President Padraig Walshe said the proposals would also have an impact on the Lisbon Treaty referendum.
Also on the programme, European Commission Director General for Trade David O'Sullivan defended the proposals.

He said that, if implemented, the deal would take effect over a number of years.
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso says a deal at the Word Trade Organisation talks is in Ireland's interest.

Noting that Ireland has 4% of the global market in traded services, Mr Barroso said a deal that opened more markets to Irish exporters was a good thing.

He said getting a deal sooner rather than later would guarantee the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy agreed four years ago.

But he warned that delaying the deal could mean that a review of the CAP starting in the autumn could result in a less favourable outcome for farmers.

The Commission president said he was not in favour of harmonised corporate tax rates and said any changes to the EU tax regime will be decided by unanimity.

He stressed that Ireland has a veto over tax policy, and will retain this veto if the Lisbon Treaty is passed in the referndum on June 12.

Nothing can be decided without Ireland, he said.

Farmers are angry over the stance being taken by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandleson in the current round of negotiations to liberalise the rules on world trade.

They say Ireland's livestock industry would be decimated, and there would be cuts the dairy, grain and other sectors.

This could result in 50,000 rural jobs being lost and 100,000 cattle farmers being made redundant.

The main farm groups are demonstrating at 1.15pm at the EU Building in Molesworth Street and then marching to Dublin Castle where Mr Barroso will address the Forum on Europe.
Many agri-businesses, including meat and dairy processors, are shutting down from midday till 3pm.

There is a major debate on world trade in the Dáil this morning, and fears have been expressed in recent days that many farmers will not support the Lisbon Referendum if there is a bad deal on WTO next month.

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