The trade deal between the European Union and the United States could offer valuable market opportunities for the Irish dairy industry, Minister for Trade Richard Bruton has said, following a meeting of EU trade ministers in Brussels.

Pointing out that the recent trade agreement between the EU and Canada had brought benefits for the Irish dairy and beef sectors, Mr Bruton said Ireland would continue to argue strongly for its “defensive interest” in the beef sector during the ongoing negotiations on a trade agreement between the two blocs.

The Government’s research estimates Irish exports could be boosted by 2.7 per cent as a result of a trade agreement with the US, with GDP growing 1.1 per cent.

Ministers from the 28 EU member states agreed to increase transparency around the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), following criticism from public-interest groups.

The EU’s new trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, flies to Washington for talks on December 9th, amid concern about Washington’s commitment to concluding the negotiations before the next US election.

Yesterday, agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan, who earlier this week called on the US to clarify its position in relation to TTIP, held his first meeting with US trade representative Michael Froman in Brussels. A spokesman for Mr Hogan said both sides had “reiterated their commitment to a balanced agreement” during the meeting.

Mr Bruton said afterwards that ministers had agreed all parties should engage strongly with the public on the potential benefits of an agreement. “We must address the concerns that exist, and rebut with evidence the false impressions that have developed,” he added.

On the controversial investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, a clause intended to give protection to investors, he said TTIP would “not allow parties to circumvent domestic or EU legal systems or courts”, noting that thousands of ISDS contracts existed in Europe.

Carlo Calenda, the Italian minister who chaired the meeting, said ISDS remained part of the EU’s negotiating mandate, but added that there would be no interference with public sovereignty.

He warned that, if an agreement was not secured next year a deal could have to wait until 2018, at which point Europe’s negotiating position would be weaker.

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