The European Commission has issued a Call for Evidence to assess the rationale and legal feasibility of applying EU health and environmental standards to imported agricultural and agri-food products. While supportive of the overall goal of working toward a global sustainable food system, the U.S. Meat Export Federation strongly disagrees that applying EU health and environmental standards to imported products will contribute to that goal and has filed comments in response.
USMEF also questions whether such an approach would be compliant with World Trade Organization rules and cautions that it is likely to lead to supply limitations and higher costs for European producers and consumers.
"Under the World Trade Organization, applying your standards or regulations to an importing country just for the sake of applying them without very clear, defined human or animal health risks is not compliant," says USMEF Senior Director for Export Services Cheyenne McEndaffer. "We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but that's really dictated by voluntary and commercial practices at the farm level, as well as third party and regulatory standards at the slaughter plant level. So that's really of the focus these comments is, we have two very different ways to reach similar outcomes, and imposing one country or trade union, in the case of the EU, to weigh on other countries, just doesn't really make sense when you don't take into consideration different geographic, climate, cultural differences across the world."
U.S. farmers are not alone in opposing the health and environmental standards on imported products.
"So there are concerns for the domestic European industry as well. You know, Europe is a historical ag producer and exporter in many goods like pork, etc. And based on decades and decades of over regulation, they've become more and more reliant on the common ag policy or CAP for heavy subsidies," says McEndaffer. "So they're already facing a very different marketplace than we do on our side of the ocean. And they see more regulations coming at them. They have fear that they won't be able to compete with imports, but also if these requirements placed on exporting countries are deemed WTO non compliant, they could face risk in their export markets with retaliatory duties, etc."
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