Food Law News - EU - 1999

20 July 1999: TRADE - The European Union and the United States sign veterinary agreement.

Commission Press Release (IP/99/540 ), 20 July 1999

The European Union and the United States sign veterinary agreement.

A veterinary agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) was formally signed in Brussels on July 20th by Mr Kalevi HEMILÄ, President of the Council, Mr Franz FISCHLER, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, on behalf of the EU, and Mr Richard Richard Louis MORNINGSTAR, US Ambassador to the EU, on behalf of the US. The agreement enters into force on August 1st 1999. The objective of the agreement is to facilitate trade in live animals and animal pro between the EU and the US by establishing a mechanism for the recognition of equivalence of sanitary measures operating in the two regions. The recognition by an importing country of the sanitary measures applied by an exporting country can permit greater efficiency in the utilisation of inspection and verification resources. The agreement includes the application of the principle of regionalisation for the main animal diseases and lists those commodities for which equivalence is recognised. For those commodities where equivalence is not yet recognised, it sets out a programme of work towards recognition and the trade conditions applicable in the interim. The provisions with regard to equivalency determination on health requirements, consultations, exchange of information, notification on disease developments, scientific exchange, verification and audit are all provisions that will help to enhance mutual understanding. The total trade between the EU and the US in the products covered by this agreement is about $ 1,500 million in each direction. This figure conceals significant differences in the importance to each party of certain commodities. It should be stressed that nothing in this agreement changes EU legislation. Similar agreements have been, or are being negotiated with New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Australia, Canada, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.

Commenting on the agreement, Mr FISCHLER said that its content is the result of long and difficult negotiations. The veterinary agreement represents an important step in deepening the relations between the EU and the US in general and in the veterinary field in particular. The agreement sends an important message. Namely the recognition that our veterinary requirements on both sides of the Atlantic essentially are equivalent and seek as a common objective a high level of health and consumer protection. Concluding, he expressed the hope that the agreement would lead to enhanced mutual trust, and help to resolve potentially contentious issues at an early stage.

Under the agreement, the US recognizes the regionalisation policy of the EU i.e. that an outbreak of an animal disease in a defined and restricted region need not result, as at present, in a ban on trade from the whole of the affected Member State or from other Member States not directly affected but which trade with the affected State. US acceptance of EU disease control policy will thus have a significantly beneficial effect in terms of trade.

The agreement takes account of the principle of subsidiarity by explicit reference in it to those responsibilities which fall to the Member States and those which are EU responsibilities. It also takes account of the rights and obligations of both parties under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and of the necessity to ensure a high level of protection of animal and public health in the EU.

In terms of trade, the principal US exports covered by the agreement are fish and fishery products ($350 million), petfood ($150 million) and fresh meat ($150 million). Other significant US exports include rendered fats, hides and skins and live horses. For the EU, the principal exports covered are dairy products ($600 million), fish and fishery products ($170 million), fresh meat ($122 million) and meat products ($122 million).

In the case of fresh meat, while the US exports are divided between horsemeat, beef and poultrymeat (before the cessation of poultrymeat exports), the EU exports to the US are almost all pigmeat ($120 million out of $122 million).

In February 1995, the Council agreed a mandate authorising the Commission to conduct negotiations with a view to the conclusion of agreements between the EU and third countries on sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Following this mandate, the Commission has conducted negotiations with a number of third countries. An agreement has been concluded with New Zealand, Canada and the Czech Republic. Negotiations are continuing with Australia, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.

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