The EU is the only trading block that has started to include provisions on animal welfare in its trade agreements with third countries. Yet, EU trade agreements do not condition the granting of trade preferences to the respect of animal welfare standards applied in the EU.
Since 2002 and the EU-Chile Association Agreement, most trade agreements concluded by the EU contain provisions on animal welfare cooperation. However, these provisions are usually very weak, as they only call for parties to cooperate and exchange views on the topic. In general, they focus on farmed animals, and on slaughter criteria, as countries need to match EU standards in that field to export meat to the EU.
Alongside the lack of ambition in the texts, another issue is the implementation of these provisions. As the provisions are aspirational, their implementation relies on political willingness and on the allocation of proper resources. This has not been the case in recent years and that has meant a clear lack of progress for animals.
EU Trade agreements contain other provisions linked to animals in their “Trade and Sustainable Development” chapters, which generally includes language on wildlife trafficking. Issues with these provisions are similar to those encountered with provisions on animal welfare cooperation: their language is weak and aspirational, and they lack effective enforcement mechanisms.