EU-Japan Trade Agreement is a fact, despite weak provisions on animal welfare

Photo credits: © Greenpeace / Kate Davison

The European Parliament has finally given its consent to the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (JEEPA), which unfortunately is a missed opportunity to advance the protection of animals. In addition, the enforcement mechanisms available to ensure the agreement’s cooperation mechanisms deliver impact remain desperately weak.

Japan is the fifth egg producer in the world (with a production of 2.5 million tons of shell eggs in 2016, 90% of which from caged hens) and the sixth of poultry meat (with 2.3 million tons produced in 2016).  According to animal protection NGOs, the country has the lowest standards among G7 countries and standards established at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are often disregarded. The opening of trade negotiations between the EU and Japan in 2013 raised, quite naturally, the expectations of many animal advocacy organisations who saw these discussions as a unique opportunity to raise the bar for animals given the EU’s comparatively high legislative standards.

Today’s vote in the European Parliament concludes the negotiation process as no further ratification at national level will be needed. The treaty is likely to fully enter into force on 1 February 2019.

The deal provides the bare minimum for animals:  weak provisions on animal welfare cooperation and toothless provisions on wildlife conservation and trafficking.

Animal Welfare Cooperation

The provisions on animal welfare cooperation included in JEEPA are weak, aiming only at improving “[the Parties’] understanding on their respective laws and regulations”, which does not imply at all any enhancement of the welfare and protection of animals.

The EU has shown in the past that it can have more ambition in the implementation phase of trade agreements, compared to the actual text. For instance, while the EU-Canada agreement contained only one mention of animal welfare as a potential objectives of the regulatory cooperation mechanism, the EU still set up an additional animal welfare working group where more general concerns can be raised by the Parties.  The EU must thus at least make full use of the language available in JEEPA and push for the setting up of a specific working group on animal welfare cooperation and for the adoption of an ambitious work plan to address Japan’s biggest animal welfare challenges, such as the extensive usage of barren cages for laying hens and the intensive conditions of rearing for broiler chickens.

The EU should also put the use of animals in science on the agenda with Japan, notably in the testing of cosmetics. Japanese industry players from the cosmetic sector, currently using animals, have recently shown a willingness to consider alternatives, which offers a good opportunity for the EU to influence Japan’s policy now.

Eurogroup for Animals also calls on the European Commission to ensure the transparency of the work carried by the Animal Welfare Working Group by involving relevant stakeholders, such as animal advocacy organisations.

A toothless “Trade and Sustainable Development” (TSD) Chapter

Now that the agreement is concluded, part of the economic leverage that could have been used to pressure Japan into stopping its allegedly scientific whaling campaigns is gone. In 2016, Japan’s whaling activities has killed around 390 Minke whales and 90 Sei whales. Eurogroup for Animals hopes that the conclusion of JEEPA will effectively lead to an additional channel for the EU to discuss this issue of great concern with its Japanese partner. While the TSD chapter does not contain explicit wording on whaling and while provisions related to biodiversity are even weaker than the ones contained in several agreements previously concluded by the EU, JEEPA does call on each party to “effectively implement in its laws, regulations and practices the multilateral environmental agreements to which it is party.” Japan should thus be reminded it has to respect the ruling rendered in 2014 by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) condemning the Japanese practices as not being science-driven.

Unfortunately, despite commitments made by the European Commission to strengthen the enforcement mechanisms available in TSD chapters, the text included in JEEPA remains toothless. If one of the parties continuously violates its commitments (which could be expected in the case of whaling), the only  mechanism available is the establishment of a panel that will produce a report on the matter. If the violating party still refuses to change course, nothing more can be done, apart from possibly suspending the entire agreement. The EU has included a review clause that could allow the chapter to be reviewed – possibly to include stronger provisions – but considering how the reviewing process is currently progressing with Canada, civil society organizations are not optimistic about the real impact of such a measure.

Eurogroup for Animals calls on the EU to start this reviewing process as soon as possible. TSD chapters should include last resort sanctions and a possibility for external stakeholders, such as NGOs, to trigger the mechanism aimed at settling disputes arising under the TSD chapter of the agreement. In addition, the EU should at least ensure that “Domestic Advisory Groups” (the groups composed by civil society organisations in charge of monitoring the implementation of the agreement) are in place by the time the agreement enters into force, to ensure an effective monitoring of its implementation by civil society, from the moment it starts producing effect.

CONTACTS:
Stephanie Ghislain, Trade & Animal Welfare Project leader
+32 (0)2 740 08 96 | s.ghislain@eurogroupforanimals.org

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