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Article: Food and Ag Policy Briefing 8 June

08 June 2020

This article is taken from our IEG Policy platform dated 8 June.

US Democrats made known their trade policy priorities last Wednesday (June 3) which include seeking new trade deals, re-evaluating the US withdrawal from the multilateral Pacific Rim trade agreement and promoting constructive reform efforts at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat on the House Ways and Means committee, laid out the priorities at a discussion hosted by the Washington International Trade Association (WITA) where he also said that securing new trade agreements with the European Union (EU) and United Kingdom were high on the agenda of lawmakers and the Trump administration.

On Tuesday (June 2), renowned primatologist and ethologist, Dr Jane Goodall, called for changes in the way the world treats animals, with a shift away from consumption of animal to plant-based products as a way to stave off future epidemics and halt further climate change.

Goodall told an EU-wide audience of nearly 1,300 participants at the webinar 'Pandemics, wildlife and intensive animal farming,' organised by Compassion in World Farming: "All animals matter, every animal is an individual just as every human being is an individual and all are deserving of our compassion, respect and care. They have personalities, minds and feelings and they feel pain.

"However, destroying nature and exploiting animals in intensive factory farms shows complete disregard towards life. This has consequences for us all, as we have clearly seen in the COVID-19 pandemic."

Meat consumption trends

A new report out last week stated that more than 40% of Europeans said they were reducing red meat consumption, but a chunk of the remaining consumers were still unwilling to eat less.

The European Consumer Organisation, BEUC, conducted a survey on European attitudes towards sustainable food and found that over 40% of consumers have either stopped, or cut down on, eating red meat due to environmental concerns.

In recent years, red meat, particularly beef, has come under increased scrutiny for its impacts on the environment, from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution and deforestation.

On Wednesday (June 3), the European Commission announced plans to establish a "Border Carbon Adjustment Mechanism" (CBAM) to avoid unsustainable production being transferred to third countries - but it would likely exempt agri-food products from a carbon border tax.

Sabine Weyand, the Commission's top civil servant for trade policy, said that agri-food products will most likely remain unaffected by the EU CBAM proposal.

Her comments will irk European farming groups and environmentalist who have campaigned for harsher treatment on imports from third countries. Agriculture associations say these imports create unfair advantage against European producers who follow higher standards while green groups think they incentivise destructive practices like deforestation in the Amazon.

In a jolt to trade, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and the Mercosur trade bloc was voted down by the Dutch parliament on June 3rd.

Finally, in Spain, the government passed a law to ensure it had enough temporary farm workers in light of the COVID-19 related restrictions on international worker mobility.

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