This week, the objective of the EU is clear: to show the world – and the US – that rules-based free trade works. The EU-Japan Summit, which has been postponed by a week and moved to Tokyo due to the floods that have been plaguing the country, will be the occasion to finally sign the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (JEEPA). While most of the text had been agreed by December 2017, a chapter on data flows still need to be included. The deal provides the bare minimum for animals: a weak provision on animal welfare cooperation and toothless provisions on wildlife conservation and trafficking.
Farm animal welfare and animal welfare cooperation
While the EU does not import such products from Japan, Japan is the fifth egg producer in the world (with a production of 2.5 million tons of shell eggs in 2016) and the sixth of poultry meat (with 2.3 million tons produced in 2016). According to the Animal Protection Index designed by World Animal Protection, Japan’s rank is D, the lowest among G7 countries. According to campaigners active in the country, standards established at the OIE level are often disregarded there. Most of the laying hens (around 140 million in 2011) live behind cages (above 90% of the egg production comes from caged hens) and most of the sows are put in gestation crates where they cannot turn around (a practice restricted in Europe). One of the priorities of the EU should have been to raise this situation and to get Japan to commit to improving the welfare of the 9.4 million pigs, 3.8 million cattle heads and 310 million chickens (including laying hens) used on farms in the country.
The two provisions on animal welfare cooperation, which can be found in the “Good Regulatory Practices and Regulatory Cooperation” chapter are brief – only seven lines out of a 13-page chapter – and remain very weak. The focus of any animal welfare cooperation between the EU and Japan is restricted to farm animals, and the objective is only set as to improve “understanding on their respective laws and regulations”, which does not imply at all any enhancement of the welfare and protection of animals. The establishment of a dedicated working group is not mandatory. It can only occur with the mutual consent of both parties and would only aim at exchanging information, expertise and experience in the field of animal welfare, and at exploring “the possibility of promoting further cooperation.” The Parties can also adopt a “working plan defining the priorities and categories of animals to be dealt with under this Article.”
Eurogroup for Animals will push for such a working group to be established and for a working plan to be produced. Such document should reflect concrete priorities in terms of farm animal welfare, but also for other categories of animals on which the EU should cooperate with Japan, like animals in science and wild animals kept for leisure or touristic activities. As animal welfare has been singled out in this chapter on regulatory cooperation, it is excluded from all the mechanisms that will apply to other topics (i.e. public health, environment or labour conditions, etc.) and will not fall within the scope of the future EU-Japan committee on Regulatory Cooperation, wherein “interested persons” might be invited to participate.
A toothless “Trade and Sustainable Development” chapter
Whaling is the topic that comes to mind when animal advocates think of Japan. While the EU has already imposed a complete ban on trading whale products, and therefore does not import or export whale products from or to Japan, many animal advocates had hoped the EU would use the leverage it has, being a consumer market of 500 million people, to pressure Japan into stopping its allegedly scientific whaling campaigns before signing this trade agreement. Especially as in 2014, a ruling rendered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) condemned the Japanese practices as not being science-driven.
Unsurprisingly, the issue is not directly mentioned in the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapter of the trade agreement, and it remains to be seen if the language that is included (notably on the effective implementation of decisions adopted by international bodies from which each Party is a member of) will create a new channel for the EU to discuss with Japan its refusal to abide by a ruling rendered by the ICJ, which is also a rule of law issue. In any case, the Free Trade Agreement will not be more than a platform due to the weakness of the enforcement mechanisms contained in the TSD chapter, lacking last resort sanctions. One can also think of the role played by Japan in the deforestation that is plaguing Indonesia and Malaysia, leading to huge biodiversity loss, for instance orangutans and gibbons. As it stands, nothing in the trade agreement truly ensures that the timber-made products bought by the EU from Japan can be labeled as “deforestation-free.”
The EU has now lost an important source of leverage and it is quite ironic – or telling – that Japan has announced this month, in the run up to the Summit at which they will sign an unprecedented trade agreement with the EU, that it would ask this year’s international convention on whaling (ICW) the right to re-start commercial whaling on species that are now deemed sustainable. This, in the middle of last week’s scandalous killing of a highly endangered blue whale by an Icelandic company, who are still providing whale meat to Japan.
While the text cannot be changed anymore, Eurogroup for Animals will strive to ensure all opportunities offered by the implementation mechanisms set in the text are seized to promote higher protection and welfare of animals in Japan.
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade & Animal Welfare Project leader | +32 (0)2 740 08 96 | firstname.lastname@example.org