The objective of the Agreement is to facilitate trade in live animals and animal products between the Community and the United States by establishing a mechanism for the recognition of equivalence of sanitary measures, where this is possible, as well as a procedure for working towards equivalence in other areas in a way consistent with the protection of public and animal health.
It is recalled that the text of the Agreement was approved by the Council on 17 March 1998. At the time, the Council agreed that the signature would take place only after finalisation by the United States' authorities of their evaluation on the EU animal status in order to apply the principle of regionalisation foreseen by the Agreement. The US authorities published the proposed rule on 25 June 1999 and announced their intention to further update some measures to the satisfaction of the Council.
The Agreement shall initially be limited to the sanitary measures applied to trade in live animals and to the main animal products. Pending their equivalence assessment, a number of items will continue to be subject to each Party's sanitary requirements and will, at this stage, be subject to compliance with existing trade rules. Other sanitary measures relating, among others, to food additives, irradiation, contaminants (including pesticides and animal drug residues), labelling of foodstuffs, feed additives and feedingstuffs will not be covered by the Agreement.
For each party, equivalence can only be accepted in cases where the party is satisfied that the agreed conditions of trade meet its chosen level of sanitary protection. The rights of Parties under the WTO Agreements are not affected, but the intention of this Agreement is to work towards mutually acceptable solutions so as to prevent damaging trade disputes developing in future. A joint management committee will meet regularly in order to progress towards the abolition of any trade barrier not justified on scientific grounds.
Provisions are included for the exchange of information on relevant matters, including the results of checks and verification procedures and other developments affecting trade. Specific provisions for the timely notification to each other of outbreaks of diseases are foreseen. A safeguard clause is also included, allowing parties to take unilateral emergency measures to protect human or animal health if necessary.
The Parties shall notify each other of proposals to introduce new sanitary measures or to change existing ones, and shall provide the opportunity to comment on such proposals. This mechanism should also be seen in connection with the "early warning and problem prevention system" agreed at the EU-US Summit in Bonn on 21 June 1999 and represents an additional major achievement in the process of confidence-building. Indeed, above and beyond its pure economic content, the Agreement should improve the capacity of each side to take the other side's interests into account at an early stage when preparing legislative or regulatory decisions, without however limiting each other's autonomy.
The Agreement will enter into force on 1 August 1999.