EU wary of ‘unfair competition’
European politicians are warning that seafood should not be exposed to a “purely” free-trade approach.
At a plenary session in Strasbourg, France, last week, European Parliament members overwhelmingly voted through a resolution that promotes “reasonable, adjustable” tariff protection on seafood imports into the European Union.
Inked into the Lisbon Treaty, which came into force in December 2009, is the authority for Parliament to co-legislate on common trade policy and notably the bloc’s fisheries policy, slated for reform in 2012.
“The European Commission and Council need to take into account the considerations of Parliament expressed in this report,” said Alain Cadec, the French MEP who drafted the resolution.
In adopting the resolution by 374 votes to 13, with 11 abstentions, the European MEPs agreed that “fishing [and] aquaculture industries must not be exposed to unfair competition from imports.”
Europe has a voracious appetite for seafood and is currently the world’s biggest seafood market, valued at EUR 55 billion (USD 69 billion). But the EU’s fisheries and aquaculture industries are unable to meet consumer demand.
While EU seafood production has dropped about 30 percent over the previous decade, demand continues to rise. Indeed, demand is expected to hit 1.5 million tons by 2030, “an increase that will have to be met virtually entirely from additional imports,” warned Cadec previously.
The MEPs insist in their influential resolution that “future EU import arrangements must not curtail the overall goal of the upcoming fisheries reform — to preserve viable fishery and aquaculture sectors.” In short, tariff protection should remain a tool to regulate imports.
Believing that European shoppers would often make different choices if they were better informed about the country of origin and production method of seafood, the MEPs demanded “stringent and transparent criteria for quality, traceability and labeling.”
And approaching the thorny issue of reform to the incumbent Common Fisheries Policy, the politicians repeated their call for an “urgent revision of the outdated common market organization in fishery products.”
Finally, they asked that responsibility for taking the EU through trade talks on seafood products should be transferred from the Trade Commissioner to the Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.