Last week, the European Parliament published a draft recommendation allowing the Council of the EU to grant new trade preferences to China that would serve as a compensation for a lost WTO dispute on poultry meat preparations. As a result China could obtain cheap preferential access to EU markets without due consideration of animal welfare.
Back in 2006, the European Union wanted to modify the tariffs it had in place on certain poultry meat products. To do so, the EU had to discuss with its WTO partners who were the main players on its market for the targeted products. At that time, those countries were Brazil and Thailand and the discussions with both countries led to two pieces of EU legislation aimed at opening tariff-rate quotas for different poultry meat products mainly imported from Brazil and Thailand (EC Regulation 616/2007 & EC Regulation 302/2013).
China complained about this decision, arguing that it was also an important player on the EU market. When the EU assessed the situation of the European poultry meat products market, the Chinese potential was simply hidden because exports were blocked by sanitary obstacles that were only lifted by the EU in 2008. Beijing attacked the EU in front of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the WTO and won the case, which obliged the EU to find a compromise with the country.
As a result, the European Parliament will now discuss the agreement that contains this compromise. The EU will grant preferential access to China on three products:
- For meat preparations of fowls (cooked, containing less than 57% by weight of poultry meat or offal), the EU will open erga omnes (not only for China) a tariff-rate quota (TRQ) of 5000 tons with an in-tariff of 8%. Usually, such products must pay a duty of 1024€/ton. EC Regulation 616/2007 had already open a similar TRQ (8% in-tariff) for Thailand (160,033 tons), Brazil (79,477 tons) and other countries (273 tons). This means that other countries will now be allowed a TRQ of 5,273 tons, rather than 273 tons.
- For processed duck, geese or guinea fowl meat (cooked, containing 57% or more by weight of poultry meat or offal), the EU will open a tariff-rate quota (TRQ) of 6000 tons only for China with an in-tariff of 10.9%, as well as one of 60 tons for other countries. EC Regulation 302/2013 already opened a similar TRQ of 13,500 tons for Thailand and 220 tons for other countries. Usually, such products must pay a duty of 2,765€/ton.
- For processed duck, geese or guinea fowl meat (cooked, containing less than 57% by weight of poultry meat or offal), the EU will open a tariff-rate quota (TRQ) of 600 tons only for China (10.9% in-tariff), and 60 tons for other countries. EC Regulation 302/2013 already opened a similar TRQ of 1,200 tons for Thailand and 273 tons for other countries. Usually, such products must pay a duty of 2,765€/ton.
Overall, this agreement implies that Chinese poultry meat preparations will get a cheaper access to the EU market, regardless of the level of animal welfare standards applied in the farms where these fowls, ducks or geese are raised.
Discussions on farm animal welfare should have been part of the negotiations, yet they are not even foreseen. Even though animal welfare was not mentioned in the two pieces of legislation initially granting better access to Brazil and Thailand, the EU is addressing this consideration with both countries: the EU has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Brazil in 2013 and Thailand has been one of the main beneficiaries of EU technical cooperation in the field of animal welfare. While this is not enough and conditioning better access to the market to the respect of EU-equivalent animal welfare standards would have been more effective, dialogue on animal welfare with the Chinese authorities has not even started.
Considering the recent signs of openness shown by China, notably in October 2017 when Vice-Minister Yu Kangzheng stated that ”Promoting animal welfare has become not only an important choice for the green development of agriculture and a significant measure to ensure food safety and healthy consumption, but even more so an important embodiment of human caring in modern society,” it is high time for the EU to initiate a proper dialogue on animal welfare with this country. Progress on farm animal welfare in China could improve the life of around five billions chicken, 84 millions cattle and 456 millions pigs.
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare – Project Leader
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