European Commission must approach trade negotiations ‘with utmost care’

The European Commission has been urged to approach trade negotiations “with utmost care” in terms of liberalising market access for sensitive agricultural products.

This call was made in a new “Opinion on the Future of Food and Farming” authored by Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly for the Committee on International Trade – which will be considered by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

Commenting on the matter, Kelly said: “I received strong backing from my colleagues in the International Trade Committee for my Opinion on the Future of Food and Farming, which underlines that agriculture has an important role to place in the context of trade negotiations.”

The leader of the Fine Gael delegation in the EU Parliament added: “The EU has been the single largest exporter of agri-food products since 2013 and has run an export surplus since 2010.

“EU agri-food exports to third countries have been increasing, reaching a record value of €137.9 billion in 2017, and the EU is also the largest importer of agricultural products from developing countries.

“An estimated 90% of additional global demand for agri-food products over the next decade will come from outside Europe.

We are calling on the EU agri-food sector to take advantage of the opportunities for growth offered by exports.

Kelly noted that EU trade policy can contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy, to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community and that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices.

“In particular, the Opinion adopted by the International Trade Committee recently urges the EU to guarantee a global level playing field and to approach with the utmost care the liberalisation of market access in sensitive agricultural sectors,” he said.

“It can do so by considering at first-hand transition periods, tariff-rate quotas, appropriate safeguarding measures, possible exclusion of the most sensitive products from the scope of agreements after a case-by-case consideration and compliance with reciprocity rules.

“It stresses that the maximum cumulative amounts of the agricultural concessions granted by the EU in the context of all its international undertakings must be taken into account for sensitive products and for each sector,” Kelly said.

The Opinion also highlights the importance of EU policies on the environment and development, in order to meet climate goals.

It calls for the prudent use of antimicrobial medicines in order to reduce the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance. It notes the need to better safeguard strategic supplies of vegetable proteins, so that finally the development of the circular economy can be fostered, the MEP added.