Photo: © Otwarte Klatki / Andrew Skowron
For the first time, a condition based on animal welfare standards will be included in an EU trade agreement.
The condition will be attached to the export of shelled eggs from Mercosur countries – Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – and means that in order to enter the EU market duty-free, they will have to respect animal welfare standards equivalent to those applied in the EU.
The announcement by John Clarke, head of international affairs in DG AGRI, at yesterday’s EP AGRI committee debate on the agricultural dimension of the EU-Mercosur Agreement, is cause for celebration at Eurogroup for Animals, which for years has promoted the idea of having animal welfare conditions introduced in trade preferences offered by the EU to its trade partners.
But this commitment won’t change Eurogroup for Animals’ fierce opposition to the Mercosur deal; there is no condition on the liberalisation of beef and chicken meat, or on egg products, where the volumes are more significant. However, we see this as a crucial step towards trade policy becoming more respectful of animal welfare, and thus more sustainable. We strongly encourage DG Trade to implement conditional liberalisation in all future trade agreements.
“If the EU does not place conditions on the access to its market that demand that suppliers respect animal welfare standards equivalent to those applied in the EU, it should, at the very least, only offer additional trade preferences to products that respect higher animal welfare standards,” says Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare Project Leader at Eurogroup for Animals. “This news is a first in trade policy and, we hope, spells the start of a shift in the mindset on this matter.”
This was not the EU’s first attempt to include animal-welfare based conditions in a trade agreement. In fact, during the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the EU did float the idea with the US in the context of the egg trade. As these negotiations are currently frozen, this offer never materialised.
A similar proposal was reported to be on the table with Mercosur countries in early 2017, but in July 2019, when the negotiations were concluded and the Agreement in Principle finally presented, there was no mention of eggs, leaving the question open. Then several journalists reported on a potential animal welfare-based condition on egg-related tariff-rate quotas, but this was denied by the EU Chief Negotiator at a public meeting. She put forward the argument that the EU had chosen to restrict the volume of trade, meaning only opening a tariff-rate quota on egg products instead of requesting a condition linked to animal welfare, which could have pushed Mercosur countries to ask for full access to the market.
Now, though, it seems that that decision has been overturned, at least for shelled eggs. “This is an important turning point in EU trade policy and an approach we would like to see extended to other animal-based products, either using species specific standards when available, or at least all relevant horizontal standards such as these on transport, which at the moment do not apply to animals transported strictly within third countries,” says Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals.
Trade and Animal Welfare Project Leader, Eurogroup for Animals
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