12 Member States write to defend Animal Welfare Standards in beef imports
In their letter, they mention the need to condition better access to the European market to the respect of animal welfare standards, a message that Eurogroup has been defending all along. On Tuesday, twelve Member States wrote to the Commission to oppose the rumoured proposal on market access for sensitive products that Brussels was intending to exchange in the coming round of negotiations with Mercosur. The twelve countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – criticized the inclusion in the offer of quotas for sensitive products – ie beef, ethanol, sugar and poultry. Under such quotas, also called tariff-rate quota (TRQ), a certain quantity (or quota) of a product gets a preferential access to the partner’s market.
In their letter, the twelve countries called on the Commission to impose non-tariff conditions – such as the respect of animal welfare standards, as well as SPS and environmental standards – on trade with Mercosur in those sensitive products. Those conditions could also be used to justify the suspension of trade preferences. In other words, they would want the Commission to condition better access to the EU’s market to higher respect of animal welfare standards, an idea that has been defended by Eurogroup for Animals all along.
Another point they made is that the Commission should better consider all ongoing and future negotiations to define the appropriate level of tariff applied to those sensitive products, strongly keeping past and future concessions in mind. They call this principle the “single pocket” concept. The Commission’s calculations should take into account not only all impact assessments made for ongoing and future negotiations, but also the reduced absorption level of the European market due to the decrease in meat consumption, and the impact of Brexit.
According to Reuters, eight other countries – Germany, Italy, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic – also wrote to the Commission but to urge the Commission to submit an offer in the agricultural sector.
In terms of figures, the Commission announced earlier, in a briefing to EU diplomats, that they intended to offer Mercosur countries a TRQ of 70.000 tons for beef, equally divided between fresh and frozen meat. This offer is only 8.000 tons below the EU’s previous draft proposal made in 2016, which did not fly well with Member States. In 2004, the Commission’s draft figure for beef TRQs was more around 100.000 tons.
After the farmers’ unions (see EB 438) last week, this week also saw the poultry industry voicing concerns regarding the coming round of EU-Mercosur negotiations. In a letter, the industry warned the EU authorities against the unfair competition they would unleash given that the EU poultry industry has to respect higher standards than its South American counterpart, notably on animal welfare.
At the time of writing, it seems that the Commission has agreed upon the figure of 70.000 tons and has a proper market access offer to exchange with Mercosur. However, from a South American point of view, that offer is already seen as too low, especially as most of Mercosur exports are fresh and not frozen meat (meaning that a big part of the quota is likely to remain unused). As Polico wrote it, the coming negotiation round might be the “make-or-break” round.
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare Project Leader
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