Compatibility of EU trade policy with the European Green Deal (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: Compatibility of EU trade policy with the European Green Deal (own-initiative opinion)

Key points

  • The EESC welcomes the European Green Deal, in particular the Farm to Fork (F2F) and Biodiversity Strategies, which are ambitious,  will have a major impact on EU farming and the agri-food sector, and will play a central role in future trade deals.
  • The EESC is  of the opinion that the EU must respond to the COVID-19 crisis with the urgent implementation of the European Recovery Plan, to get the EU economy back up and operating fully again, as quickly as possible taking account of health and environmental risks. The Green Deal should be an integral part of the recovery
  • With the world economy facing an unprecedented recessionary challenge from the COVID-19 crisis, fair and rules-based level playing field trade was never more important to drive economic recovery. A well-functioning open EU single market and international trade are essential. The EESC is of the view that the EU cannot allow its trade policy to slip into a defensive position.
  • Fundamental lessons that the EU must take from the COVID-19 crisis include:
  1. The critical importance of the one health concept, food security and food sovereignty for Europe;
  2. The need for a strong CAP and a sustainable and resilient supply chain for food and essential health-related products;The need for the EU to have a strong well-funded own resources budget to deal with crisis;
  3. The importance of trade and protecting the EU Single Market to prevent renationalisation and a repeat of developments like Brexit.
  • The EESC requests that the impact of the Green Deal F2F and Biodiversity Strategies for EU trade agreements, farming and the agri-food sector must be fully assessed with a detailed impact assessment.
  • It is well recognised that trade in agriculture plays a core role in realising most, if not all, SDGs and that the WTO has an important part to play in achieving the SDGs, and that this would be far harder without an effective multilateral trade mechanism.
  • The EESC proposes that all future EU trade deals incorporate the Green Deal F2F and Biodiversity strategies as global standards on sustainability, recognising that incorporating and implementing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and higher standards into Multilateral trade deals is extremely challenging. Greater progress on SDGs and essential environmental and social standards seem possible in bilateral trade deals in the shorter term.
  • The EU has to guarantee that trade deals will not externalise the problem and increase deforestation in other countries.
  • The EESC considers it essential that the viability and competitiveness of EU farming and the agri-food sector is not eroded by the imposition of higher costs and standards through the Green Deal F2F and Biodiversity strategies, which competitors are not willing to adopt and implement.
  • The EESC believes that there needs to be much greater coherency and coordination between and across EU policies like the Green Deal F2F and Biodiversity Strategies, CAP, trade policy and social policy.
  • Farming, in line with the EU family farm model, has a vital role to play in the implementation of the Green Deal F2F and Biodiversity Strategies and it is essential that there is an adequate CAP budget to cover the additional demands on farmers.
  • In relation to conversion of land to organic production, the impact of the resultant drop in production must be assessed. Research must be intensified to better define "organic" and assess the real net contribution of organic farming to global sustainability, including biodiversity.
  • All EU trade deals must respect EU SPS provisions and adhere to the precautionary principle.