According to the Guardian, the EU is looking into adding a “punishment clause” in the future EU-UK trade agreement. Such a clause would allow the EU to increase its tariffs back to WTO levels in case the UK ends up lowering “social and environmental” regulations in order to regain a competitive advantage. If it is the case, Eurogroup for Animals calls for that provision to cover animal welfare.
The increase in tariffs would not specifically take place in sectors where the deregulation occurred, but in a sector where it would clearly hurt the UK’s interests.
Reading between the lines, this announcement refers to a provision usually contained in the ‘Trade and Sustainable Development’ (TSD) chapters of other EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), which prevents parties from lowering social and environmental standards in order to attract more trade. Interestingly, in all other agreements concluded by the EU so far, this provision cannot be enforced fully; TSD chapters are not covered by any dispute settlement mechanism, and surely do not include sanctions.
If the EU is to include such a sanction mechanism with the UK, it must cover animal welfare regulations. Animal welfare is a value that is central to both European and British citizens and a future “Global UK” trade policy is likely to put it at risk. Whether or not the UK should reduce its standards, notably on animal welfare, has already been at the centre of arguments between the UK trade and environment secretaries.
Eurogroup for Animals commends the EU’s willingness to include such a “punishment clause” in the EU-UK FTA, finally giving teeth to TSD Chapters. However, while progress on the enforcement mechanisms contained in such chapter is welcome, the EU also needs to consider the scope of the TSD chapter. Animal welfare is linked with sustainable development on many levels. Relevant animal welfare matters should thus be addressed in the TSD chapter.
For more information, contact:
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade & Animal Welfare Project Leader, Tel: +32 (0)2 740 08 96, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org