Photo: Wildlife Reserves Singapore
Today, the European Parliament adopted the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. The animal-related provisions included in the agreement are weak. While Singapore is known for being a wildlife trafficking hub and a centre for animal testing – both priorities for the EU – neither of these issues are addressed in the text. At the same time, among Asian countries Singapore is a unique mix of high-tech innovation and environmental awareness, dubbed Asia’s Greenest City due to its ambitious environmental targets and efficient approach to achieving them. It also consistently tops Mercer’s Quality of Living ranking for the continent.
As it stands, the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is a missed opportunity to lay the groundwork for a fruitful cooperation with a trade partner that would benefit animals. A single provision on animal welfare cooperation is included in the chapter on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, indicating that the parties “will exchange information, expertise and experiences in the field of animal welfare in order to promote the collaboration on animal welfare between the Parties” – far from the standalone chapter recently agreed with Mexico.
As for the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter, it includes an article on trade in fish that mentions the importance of sustainable fisheries and the obligation to take into account the precautionary principle when elaborating environmental measures, but it lacks specific provisions on biodiversity or wildlife trafficking.
The EU-Singapore Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), also concluded in 2013, does not provide any additional tool: there is no mention of animals or wildlife.
Past experience has shown that the EU can take advantage of vague language in a trade agreement by adopting a bold implementation strategy and that most recent developments in trade policy can influence the implementation of older agreements. Eurogroup for Animals calls on the EU to address three issues in particular:
- Wildlife trafficking: with Asia growing richer, wildlife trafficking is increasing, and many individuals from endangered species end up serving in alleged medicinal products or as status symbols. Singapore is recognized as being a major transit hub to the rest of Asia and Europe for many species and products made of their parts. Singaporeans also consume local wildlife-based products (medicines or luxury skins and furs) and own exotic pets such as birds and reptiles.
- Animal Testing: a few years ago, Singapore decided to make of bioscience a priority in terms of investment, creating incentives for companies to set up premises there, which naturally led to an increase in animal testing. However, to further attract these companies, Singapore sided with animal testing standards close to those in the US, which are below EU levels (where the use of alternative testing methods is mandatory if available).
- Aquaculture and fish welfare: Singapore hosts a group of aquaculture investors and professionals who created the “Institution of Aquaculture Singapore” in 2014, which aims to develop sustainable aquaculture through collaborations and shared know-how, often with facilities in other Asian countries that are much bigger players in aquaculture. According to this institution, the Singaporean government provides technical assistance to the sector to increase productivity. The EU must take advantage of Singapore’s position as a technologic and economic hub in the ASEAN region to discuss with the City-State how to better integrate fish welfare in their sustainability considerations for this growing sector across the whole ASEAN region.
Parts of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement that are relevant to animals were written years ago – before September 2013, to be precise. The poverty of the text clearly reflects its age in light of recent developments regarding animal welfare in EU trade policy.
In 2014, Singapore reformed its animal welfare legislation, imposing higher fees and longer jail time to individuals and businesses found guilty of animal cruelty or of negligence. This reflects a change in Singaporean society and shows there is a momentum to discuss animal welfare further with the city-state’s government and civil society. It is not 2013 anymore.
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade & Animal Welfare Project leader
Tel. +32 (0)2 740 08 96 | firstname.lastname@example.org