Smith Welcomes Strong Stance On Trade Negotiations

08 March 2011
Alyn Smith MEP, SNP member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, has warmly welcomed the passage of the Papastamkos Report on Agriculture and International Trade through the full Parliament today (Tuesday) by an overwhelming majority as a "clear message" to Europe's farmers that the Parliament is on their side when it comes to ensuring that trade negotiations do not sell out agricultural interests.
The report calls for the defence of agricultural interests in bilateral and multilateral trade talks; that third country production methods should provide European consumers with the same guarantees as they expect from EU products; that Non-Trade Concerns (such as animal welfare and labour conditions) should be included in the Doha Round; and that full impact assessments must be undertaken before new trade negotiations are commenced.

The need to defend European farmers in any potential trade deal with Mercosur is also a key aspect of the report: no trade deal with Mercosur should be concluded before the Doha Round is completed.

Smith said:

"For too long, European Commission trade negotiators have seen agriculture as a mere bargaining chip, to be traded away in return for access to developing markets for Europe's manufactured goods and services. European farmers have been the losers: the recent approaches to Mercosur, which in my view have not been well-handled, without a proper impact assessment and without proper involvement of the Parliament, once more threaten Europe's livestock farmers with unfair competition from producers who do not have to meet the same strict labour, environmental and animal welfare standards. What we are faced with is a threat to Europe's production model, and I consider it unacceptable that such a major shift is taking place, not in an open and democratic forum through accountable representatives of the people, but through opaque manoeuvrings by unelected trade commissioners.  

"So I'm delighted that the Parliament took such a firm stand today: not just on the substance of defending European agriculture and insisting on equivalent standards for imports, but also insisting on properly democratic scrutiny and participation in these important decisions. The proposal to open negotiations with Mercosur should only have been taken after a free and open debate, and certainly not unilaterally by the Commission.

"I'm also pleased that we resolved to defend the European model in international trade disputes, such as on GMOs, and not to be bullied by aggressive exporters who don't comply with the same standards that we do."