The EU must engage with WTO membership to address the impact of trade on animal welfare


The EU must engage with WTO membership to address the impact of trade on animal welfare

26 April 2021
Today, the European Commission holds its Trade Policy Day, in the presence of WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala. A good occasion to call on both the EU and the WTO to better address the impact of trade policy on animals.

The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the detrimental impact of economic and trade policies that failed to take into account the impacts of trade on animal welfare, hence, contributing to fuel challenges of our times, such as deforestation, the spread of zoonoses, biodiversity loss, and antimicrobial resistance. At the occasion of the Trade Policy Day, Eurogroup For Animals calls on the EU to change course and adopt bolder measures to ensure animal welfare is protected under EU trade policy, and the coherence with the objectives expressed in the EU Green Deal. 

The EU Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy offers a new impetus for EU trade tools to be updated so as to address the challenges associated with the green transition and contribute to a more sustainable globalisation. For instance, the strategy states - for the first time - that the EU should use trade policy not only to enhance cooperation, but also to obtain ambitious commitments from third partners on animal welfare. However, the Trade Policy Review failed to address how it would implement this commitment on animal welfare This is a missed opportunity and painfully confirms that trade policy is currently blind to the unsustainable methods of production it can foster in third countries.

To deliver on the objectives of the Green Deal, Eurogroup for Animals calls on the EU to impose its revised and new animal welfare standards on imported goods and, where not possible, to introduce conditional trade preferences in Free Trade Agreements, based on animal welfare standards and other sustainability-related criteria. This will respond to EU citizens’ expectations, while better incentivising partners in third countries to shift towards more sustainable production systems. The EU should also strengthen the enforceability of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters, for instance, by introducing a sanction-based regime guaranteeing trade partners comply with their commitments on sustainable trade.

Making trade sustainable will require radical changes that cannot be achieved by the EU alone. This is why Eurogroup for Animals, the Africa Network on Animal Welfare and the World Federation for Animals recently sent a letter to WTO’s DG Ms Okonjo-Iweala, asking for her  support in favour of including considerations around animal welfare in the WTO modernisation process. Such considerations could take the shape of:

  • An acknowledgment that WTO members have the right to adopt trade-related measures to avoid the spread of intensive industrial farming;
  • discussions about product differentiation based on non-product related Process and Production Method (NPR-PPM), such as animal welfare;
  • listing agricultural subsidies aiming to improve animal welfare as Green Box subsidies that would remain permitted.
  • “environmental goods” to be understood as including goods that would assist in spreading agroecology and small-scale, non-industrial farming, as well as technology that is beneficial to animal welfare.

Trade post COVID-19 must be sustainable and respectful of the animals, the planet and the people. The EU and the WTO should work together towards ensuring that trade policy does not fuel any of the challenges the planet is facing, and even contributes to solve them. This means they have to address the impact of trade on animals. 

Read the letter here