Mandelson v McGuinness and the I.F.A. at the W.T.O. Talks
“I bring greetings from the I.F.A.” were the first words John McGuinness said to EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson when they met to discuss Ireland’s position in the Doha round of the W.T.O. negotiations.
“In fairness to him, he laughed and we got on well together. He was a great negotiator and I liked his style. But I had a job to do and a team of officials who did not entirely agree with my position” said John McGuinness, who, as Minister for Trade and Commerce, was the leading Irish negotiator for much of the talks. Thank God for the I.F.A., whose leaders and representatives were a mine of information in Brussels.”
McGuinness explained that he had believed in the potential and possibilities of Irish agriculture for many years. He said that as far back as 1997, he was calling for initiatives that would add value to our agriculture exports and exploit the green image of Ireland in selling them abroad, a position that is only now being recognised.
“At the World Trade talks I had long discussions with the then I.F.A. President, Padraig Walsh, and his organisations position was substantially in line with mine. We disagreed with my minister, Mary Coughlan, and department officials about the direction they were taking, which we felt would have conceded too much, so we fought the case we believed in together. That led to a number of disagreements between officials and myself and, in one case, between the Irish Ambassador and myself. But we held the line and we were right.
Deputy McGuinness said that the organisation of the I.F.A. in Brussels, under Michael Treacy, was fantastic and its representatives there had a view of the way the debate was going, that was not recognised by the department.
“They were wonderfully well informed. They knew every countries position and were often able to predict their next steps” said Deputy McGuinness
“With I.F.A. backing, I could hold my strong position with confidence and we gave nothing away” said Deputy McGuinness “That position has now been vindicated by the recent recognition by government and departments of the part agriculture can play in revitalising our economy. I firmly believe that agri business and agri tourism will make huge contributions to our economy in coming years”.