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August 30, 2011

Free Trade Agreements and the European Union

Humane Society International/Europe

  • HSI has key role in promoting animal protection through trade agreements

The European Union (EU) is often regarded as a world leader in animal protection issues, and is also one of the largest players in global trade in the world.

The EU incorporates provisions on animal welfare, sustainable development, and environmental protection into its trade agreements.

In recent years, the EU has sought to create additional market opportunities by negotiating bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), such as the EU-Korea FTA, which has recently been ratified, entering into force on 1st July 2011. The EU is currently in the process of negotiating an FTA with trading partners such as the MERCOSUR countries [pdf], Malaysia [pdf], Singapore, India and Canada [pdf].

Strengthen animal protection

HSI regards this increased focus on trade policy and trade agreements as an opportunity to strengthen the link between animal protection and trade in the EU by building on existing provisions.

To this end, HSI is working to influence European trade policy in a number of ways. HSI regularly meets with representatives from the relevant Directorate-General (DG) offices, such as DG Trade, DG Environment and DG SANCO, to advocate for the inclusion of strong animal protection provisions in trade agreements and to influence trade negotiations.

Provision in trade agreements

Since the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament’s powers have increased with regard to various policy areas, including trade. This has increased opportunities to encourage the EU to include more provisions relating to animal protection in its trade agreements with other countries [pdf].

HSI regularly meets with members of the Parliament’s International Trade Committee, routinely follows Parliamentary debates and hearings relevant to trade policy, provides background briefings to MEPs and suggests possible amendments to Parliamentary reports and resolutions.

Public consultations

HSI also regularly participates in public consultations on Free Trade Agreements [pdf] organised by the European Commission. Our submissions highlight the necessity and relevance of including provisions to protect animals in FTAs, and seek to influence the direction of EU trade policy.

In addition, HSI actively participates in the DG Trade Civil Society Dialogue.

The Civil Society Dialogues provide an important source of information on trade policy to NGOs and allow HSI to establish and further develop a good line of communication with Commission officials. Through our participation, HSI is able to raise awareness about the key trade issues, which are likely to affect animals, at crucial stages of the decision-making process.

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