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European trade policy must reflect the EU’s environmental ambitions. The EU was a leader in the adoption of the Paris Agreement, and is promoting a Green Deal that contains ambitious objectives for ecological and social transition. This programme includes achieving climate neutrality by 2050 with an intermediate point of minus 55% of its GHG emissions by 2030. It also promotes a European economy “where economic growth is decoupled from resource use”.
The Green Deal is now reflected in numerous sectoral policies such as the "Farm to Fork" strategy, which includes ambitious objectives on environment and animal welfare. These new orientations have also been reflected in the new trade policy proposal presented by the European Commission in February 2021. Yet, their operational implementation is still insufficient. The environmental transformation of our production methods and social justice must guide all public policies to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
It is essential to make trade policy consistent with climate and environmental policies, including on animal welfare. There is no point in reducing intra-European emissions if the EU's carbon footprint - that is, the emissions contained in imported products - continue to grow. The same goes with improving animal welfare standards within the EU, while externalising animal welfare issues by simply importing more lower welfare products. The EU is responsible for the environmental and social impacts its consumption generates in third countries. Aligning EU trade policy with the EU's commitments not only implies trying to maximise the positive effects of trade. But it also requires changing the rules governing it to prevent and mitigate the negative impacts it has globally.
The EU needs to maintain the leadership in upholding and developing high environmental and animal welfare standards. The Commission announced in its new trade policy strategy communication an early review in 2021 of the 15-points action plan of 2019 on the implementation and enforcement of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters of EU free trade agreements, “including the scope of commitments, monitoring mechanisms, the possibility of sanctions for non-compliance, the essential elements clause as well as the institutional set-up and resources required”.
ClientEarth, Eurogroup for Animals, Veblen Institute, Fern, EEB and Fondation Nicolas Hulot welcome this consultation to improve the implementation of TSD chapters. We wish to contribute to the review by identifying 10 key reforms necessary for a better incorporation of sustainability objectives and ambitious innovation, both within and beyond TSD chapters.