European Commission sets out position on food safety and animal welfare in TTIP papers

By Georgi Gyton contact

- Last updated on GMT

European Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström at yesterday's press briefing. Photo courtesy of European Commission
European Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström at yesterday's press briefing. Photo courtesy of European Commission

Related tags: European union, Eu

The European Commission (EC) yesterday (7 January) published a series of legal texts and position papers, setting out EU proposals in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the US.

It is the first time it has made such proposals accessible to the public, and marks its commitment to transparency, said EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström at a press briefing yesterday.

She said the ‘textual proposals’ set out the exact language and binding commitments which the EU would like to see in the part of the agreement covering regulatory and rules issues. The eight proposals cover competition, food safety and animal and plant health, Customs issues, technical barriers to trade, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and government-to-government dispute settlement.

As part of the sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) related proposals, the EU is keen to cut the time it takes the US to approve food imports from the EU, help the EU and regulators work more closely on issues such as animal welfare, and to uphold the EU’s strict food safety standards. This includes the creation of a single approval process for exports from all EU countries, just as there is for US exports to the EU.

The documents published stressed that both the EU and US have made it equally clear that the TTIP will not change existing food safety rules. "The EU will keep its restrictions on hormones or growth promoters in livestock farming, just as the US will keep its rules on microbial contaminants,"​ said the EC.

During the briefing, Malmström gave an example of the proposed legal texts, taking the SPS issues as an example: "It underlines that each party reserves the right to regulate according to its own systems and standards, and that we foresee cooperation on a range of issues – for example animal welfare," ​she said, adding: "I hope to be able to make more materials available after the next round of talks, which take place in February."

Responding to stories in the press this week, which have speculated on whether Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) could potentially be lost as an outcome of the TTIP talks, Daniel Rosario, spokesperson for the European Commission, told journalists at a press briefing on Tuesday (6 January): "What we can say is that the ongoing discussions in TTIP negotiations are about the protection of European intellectual property, including the geographical indications in the US.

"It is not about changing or lowering any food quality standards in Europe. We have made clear to our American counterparts that the protection of geographical indications is one of our main priorities, and we have not agreed, and will not agree, to reduce the protection of our geographical indications in Europe."

A fact sheet on the issue of intellectual property and geographical indications, published alongside the textual proposals for the TTIP, flagged up the concern that the US does not protect geographical indications from the EU, which could result in products such as Parma ham being used in a way that could mislead consumers.

The EC said that, as part of the negotiations, it wanted key improvements in the US system, "such as protection for an agreed list of EU GIs and enforcement rules against their misuse".

Related topics: Meat

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