FTA implementation falls short on animal welfare
The European Commission’s report on the implementation and enforcement of EU trade policy confirms Eurogroup for Animals’ concern that free trade agreements (FTAs) fall short on animal welfare.
Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the publication of the 2022 Annual Report on the Implementation and Enforcement of Trade Policy, published 11 October, which reflects the progress made by the European Commission and Domestic Advisory Groups in monitoring and implementing free trade agreements (FTAs). Unfortunately, the report confirms that little progress was made on animal welfare cooperation in 2021, aside from a joint statement on animal welfare with Canada in July. This reflects a major lack of transparency on how EU trade policies impact animal welfare.
Currently, the EU’s FTAs grant market access to animal products without any sustainability or animal welfare conditions. This is problematic because provisions on animal welfare cooperation tend to be soft and non-committal and are easily undermined by a lack of political willingness and resources.
However, even where partner countries are unwilling to participate, the EU should seek to maximise the value of the cooperation provisions by adopting a list of priorities to be pursued with each country. For example, aquaculture in Vietnam, poultry welfare in Japan and cosmetic animal testing in Colombia are just some instances where there is opportunity for the EU to make progress.
Addressing the impact of trade on animal welfare is also key for the EU's sustainability agenda. The Farm-to-Fork strategy calls on the EU to use its trade policy not only to “enhance cooperation with its partners”, but also to “obtain ambitious commitments from third countries in key areas such as animal welfare”. These "ambitious commitments" should also be reflected in the implementation and enforcement of trade policy.
Notably, the European Parliament last week adopted a resolution on the outcome of the Commission’s review of the 15-point action plan on trade and sustainable development (TSD). This called for the improvement of the implementation and enforcement of the TSD chapters and for the possibility to use sanctions as a last resort. We welcome this ambition and would further call for trade preferences to be made conditional on the satisfaction of animal welfare and TSD provisions.