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Allister questions Mandelson

21 March 2006

During a meeting of the International Trade Committee today in Brussels, DUP MEP Jim Allister took the opportunity of quizzing Commissioner Mandelson as to his commitment to make no more concessions on agriculture in the ongoing WTO negotiations.  Mr Allister picked up on four phrases contained in Mr Mandelson's opening statement to suggest that his resolve may not be as strong as it ought to be.  The MEP noted that the Comnmissioner had said a new agricultural offer is "not currently in the making", that in response to other WTO members expectations he was "ready to play a constructive role on agriculture", that "cards can't be played in isolation" and that before Brazil and India will make serious offers they want to see "what they can get in agriculture from the EU and USA."

Mr Allister suggested to the Commissioner that this phraseology conveyed that in due course he would make more concessions on agriculture and invited him to square that with his recent speech to the NFU in Birmingham where the message conveyed was that he had nothing more to give on agriculture.

In response, Commissioner Mandelson commented on Mr Allister's forensic analysis of his statement.  He expressly said that he had chosen and weighed his words carefully and emphasised that what he had said to the NFU was that he would not permit further reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy and that he had no intention of offering concessions that would result in farmers being abandoned. 

Commenting, Jim Allister said:-

"This exchange today with Commissioner Mandelson strengthens my suspicion that ultimately the EU will make further concessions in the WTO talks with Commissioner Mandelson's key phrase being that a new agricultural offer is "not currently in the making."  Thus we need to remain ever vigilant in defence of our key agricultural interests."

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Agriculture and Environment