Saturday

24th Jul 2021

EU 'will not compromise' on food safety in US trade pact

  • The US poultry industry is lobbying to export bleached chicken into the EU (Photo: dawvon)

A top EU official has sought to allay German fears about the US being able to export bleached chicken and hormone beef to Europe once a free trade pact comes into force.

"What is non-negotiable are food safety standards. Hormones are prohibited, there is a strict regime of genetically modified organisms and this is not going to go away," Ignacio Garcia Bercero, EU's chief negotiator on the "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership" with the US told journalists in Berlin on Tuesday (11 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

He said the EU's strict regime for control of chemical substances would also not be altered, as "mutual recognition" of safety standards only applies when the standards are "compatible."

A recent report aired on Germany’s public TV broadcaster ARD cited efforts by US lobbyists to circumvent existing EU bans on bleached chicken or hormone beef.

But Bercero said talks with the US officials are "professional" and that it is only natural for US firms to defend their interests.

"There are certain German views that our values are going to be compromised. No way this is going to happen," he said.

NGOs scrutinising the EU-US talks are sceptical about his reassurances, however.

"We know the corporate wishlists for the talks, which mention all the points that the [European] Commission is now calling red lines - from chlorinated chicken to GMOs," says Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory.

She noted that several US congressmen have said they are not going to approve a deal that does not open more market access for American agribusiness, "including through getting rid of certain food safety standards."

"The EU also has offensive interests in the talks. How will they get them through if they are not going to give in on any of the red lines? These are two-way negotiations, not a one way street," Eberhardt told this website.

In a press release issued last year when the trade talks were first announced, the US Poultry Groups - an umbrella lobby organisation for poultry meat producers - said the US trade ambassador Ron Kirk, who leads the negotiations on the American side, had "listened to and accepted recommendations that agriculture and unwarranted non-tariff barriers, especially non-science based sanitary and phytosanitary provisions, be an important part of the negotiations and that any final trade agreement successfully address these issues.”

US poultry producers have fewer sanitary demands on conditions for chicken, because once the chickens are slaughtered, they are dipped in a bleaching solution which kills all germs and bacteria. The EU has banned imports of this kind of meat.

“The result of this non-science-based action is that the United States has not been able to export poultry to the EU since 1997. When TTIP negotiations are successfully concluded, US poultry producers look forward to marketing over $500 million of products to the EU on an annual basis,” the US Poultry Groups said.

Transparency

Bercero also tried to sooth concerns on transparency in the negotiations.

He said the EU commission has been "fully transparent" from the very beginning and that the European Parliament is briefed before and after each round of negotiations. He added that the commission has appointed a "balanced" advisory group comprising seven business representatives and seven members of civil society - trade unions and NGOs.

But French Green MEP Yannick Jadot, who sits on the trade committee, said access to documents remains a problem, with only a handful of MEPs allowed to see “restricted texts."

"It is unclear if other interested EP committees and/or the advisory group will get access to restricted documents and negotiating texts, which are the most important documents," he told this website.

Jadot also noted that US position papers are under wraps, even for officials in the EU Council, which advises member states.

"It is not accurate to talk about improved transparency and this remains a major concern," he concluded.

Pia Eberhardt of Corporate Europe Observatory said that without disclosure of negotiation texts, "it is almost impossible to provide appropriate feedback for the very proposals that will affect the general public the most."

As for the “advisory group,” Eberhardt said it is "a thinly disguised public relations exercise by the commission to signal openness where there is secrecy and to signal interest in issues such as environmental protection where in fact all it cares about is the hard-core market opening agenda of European business."

A freedom of information request on the meetings held by the EU commission's trade unit since February 2013 shows that of roughly 120 meetings, most were with large corporations and their lobbyists and only a handful with trade unions and consumer groups.

GMO maize vote highlights 'absurd' EU rules

The EU commission is set to authorise the cultivation of a genetically modified maize crop, despite opposition from 19 countries: Critics say it showcases "absurd" EU voting rules.

News in Brief

  1. Macron changes phone after Pegasus spyware revelations
  2. Italy to impose 'vaccinated-only' entry on indoor entertainment
  3. EU 'will not renegotiate' Irish protocol
  4. Brussels migrants end hunger strike
  5. Elderly EU nationals in UK-status limbo after missed deadline
  6. WHO: 11bn doses needed to reach global vaccination target
  7. EU to share 200m Covid vaccine doses by end of 2021
  8. Spain ends outdoor mask-wearing despite surge

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Far left and right MEPs less critical of China and Russia
  2. Why is offshore wind the 'Cinderella' of EU climate policy?
  3. Open letter from 30 embassies ahead of Budapest Pride
  4. Orbán counters EU by calling referendum on anti-LGBTI law
  5. Why aren't EU's CSDP missions working?
  6. Romania most keen to join eurozone
  7. Slovenia risks court over EU anti-graft office
  8. Sweden's gang and gun violence sets politicians bickering

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us