Where the EU did manage to include provisions on animal welfare cooperation in its FTAs, there has been a lack of follow-up, and so the impact of these provisions have often been limited.
In recent years, the European Commission has put an increasing emphasis on the implementation of free trade agreements. It now produces yearly reports covering achievements under most FTAs and in June 2020 it appointed a new Chief Trade Enforcement Officer, who is solely tasked with improving implementation of FTAs.
It is crucial to hold the EU accountable for the results it delivers through cooperation mechanisms included in trade agreements, or the lack thereof. While we argue for the adoption of stronger measures, the Commission often portrays cooperation provisions as the most effective tool to promote animal welfare with partners. Yet the experience of existing FTAs reveal that once the provisions are adopted, there is a lack of political willingness and resources to generate concrete progress for animals.
It is crucial to underline the importance of ensuring that other Directorates General in the European Commission, which will be in charge of the dossier in the implementation phase, are sufficiently staffed and willing to follow up once the FTA is concluded. Unless there is implementation, provisions on cooperation are only window-dressing.
WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC THINK?
EU citizens consider that ensuring the EU’s environmental and health standards are respected in trade policy is a top priority, according to the latest Eurobarometer published in November 2019. Compared to the previous Eurobarometer on trade published in 2010, there was a significant increase in respondents that said that ensuring environmental and health standards is key.
POLICY - CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
As early as 2002, the EU-Chile Association Agreement contained the first ever provisions on animal welfare cooperation. Chile is often seen as a lighthouse for animal welfare in Latin America and the cooperation with the EU that followed the conclusion of the Association Agreement led to the adoption of an animal welfare law in 2009, and of further decrees in the following years, which incorporate OIE Standards mainly on transport and slaughter of animals.
Apart from Chile, provisions on animal welfare cooperation included in most EU FTAs have not led to tangible progress within partner countries. While Ukraine fulfilled its commitment to adopt legislation to approximate the EU acquis on animal welfare, it will not be implemented until 2026 although EU imports of Ukrainian chicken and eggs have surged since the trade preferences kicked in. The EU had also hoped to discuss animal transport with Canada, but only a few months after the beginning of the cooperation, Canada adopted a mild review of its outdated rules on animal transport, strongly decreasing the potential utility of any cooperation with the EU. With other partners, like South Korea or Colombia/Ecuador/Perú, there is no record proving that animal welfare has been a topic of concrete cooperation.