The EU has finally agreed to eliminate export subsidies…three cheers!

As long as I have been commenting on the CAP, its most criticized feature has been its use of export subsidies, also called export refunds. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the EU was spending €10 billion a year on export subsidies, almost one-third of the CAP budget, in order to allow traders to get rid of the EU’s growing export surpluses by paying the difference between the EU’s high internal prices and lower world market prices.
Export subsidies allowed EU exporters to grab market share in import markets from competing exporters, put downward pressure on the level of world market prices, and competed unfairly with local producers in many developing countries.… Read the rest

EU’s declining importance in agrifood trade

The fact that twelve countries reached agreement on the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade area last week (albeit ratification is by no means assured) underlines the changing geography of international agrifood trade. The EU is still an important player, but it is remarkable how quickly its importance is declining as other exporters make their appearance and other import markets grow in size (see this post for a previous discussion). The table below shows the trends over the past two decades (click to enlarge).

The table shows the EU’s share of global exports and imports of agrifood products, but excluding fish (SITC 03).… Read the rest

TTIP and the potential for US beef imports

Beef is generally considered to be a sensitive sector in the EU-US negotiations on a possible Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement. Currently, imports of beef from the US are limited by high tariffs and by the refusal of the EU to allow the import of beef produced with the aid of pharmaceutical technologies such as hormones and beta-agonists (a class of non-hormonal compounds that act to increase feed efficiency).

Nonetheless, EU imports of non-hormone-treated beef from the US have been increasing in recent years. Different views have been expressed about the likely consequences for the EU beef market if market access were further liberalised under a TTIP agreement.… Read the rest

Forum for the Future of Agriculture 2015 – Remarks on EU agricultural trade policy

The 8th Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA2015) was held yesterday in Brussels. This annual meeting, organised jointly by the European Landowners’ Association and Syngenta, attracts around 1400 participants and has established itself as one of the principal fora for debate on the future of agricultural policy. What makes the event interesting is that it attracts a good number of participants from among farmers and the agri-business sector while also being open to environmental NGOs and others critical of current agricultural practices.
The theme for yesterday’s meeting was the UN Sustainable Development Goals and possible implications for EU agriculture, with contributions from both Commissioners Hogan (Agriculture) and Vella (Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries).… Read the rest

Agricultural implications of British EU withdrawal for rest of the EU

This Sunday, the Greek general election may decide if Greece will leave the Eurozone, sometimes referred to as Grexit. None of the likely winners of the election, including Syriza, want this, but if there is an unwillingness to address the restructuring of Greek debt, particularly given Syriza’s promises to dramatically increase public spending, this could be the outcome. Whether Greece would then remain a member of the EU if this were to happen is uncertain, with The Economist arguing this week that, in all likelihood, Greece would have to leave the EU as well.
Later this year, on 7 May, the British general election takes place.… Read the rest

Russian food sanctions against the EU

The Russian ban on the import of certain food products from the EU (and some other countries) has led to a chorus of appeals from member states and from farm groups for aid and compensation. The Russian ban has created an immediate problem in the fruit and vegetables sector, where the summer harvest for fruits is in full swing, there is a high dependence on the Russian market, and the produce is perishable with few immediate alternative outlets. But the overall scale of the problem needs to be kept in perspective. In this post, I present the data on the countries and products affected.… Read the rest

Food safety in the US-EU TTIP negotiations

There is widespread concern that the ongoing negotiations on a transatlantic free trade area between the US and the EU, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), may result in a watering-down of EU food safety standards under US pressure to remove measures which are perceived as barriers to trade.
According to a report from the US-based NGO the Centre for Food Safety, “many analysts believe that a central aim of the negotiations is to dismantle many food safety regulations that corporations view as impediments to trade and profitmaking.”
Less dramatically, the European Consumer Organisation BEUC notes in its position paper that: “[…] the EU food legislative framework guarantees consumers a high level of protection and information.… Read the rest

Does TTIP (and TPP) require TPA?

I suspect that many readers will find the acronyms in the title of this post puzzling, so let me explain. This is a post about trade policy, and especially about the dependability of the US as a negotiating partner in its negotiations with the EU on the free trade agreement known as TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – billed on the DG Trade website as ‘the biggest trade deal in the world’ and due to be completed by December this year.
The TTIP talks also encompass food and agricultural products. The goal is to eliminate all tariffs on both agricultural and non-agricultural trade between the two counties.… Read the rest

Export refunds and Africa

Export subsidies on agricultural products are back in the news again following the somewhat surprising declaration by Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos in his opening speech at the Green Week on Berlin earlier this month (16 January), of his readiness to stop the use of export refunds for exports to developing countries in Africa with which the European Union has an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). He stressed that this would be an important step in terms of coherence between EU agriculture and development policies. He said:

Since 1 January, EU legislation is also very clear: export refunds have ceased to exist as a means of systematically supporting a sector.

Read the rest

Changing patterns of global agrifood trade

Publication of the latest United Nations International Trade Statistics Yearbook with comparative figures from 2000 to 2012 gives an insight into the important structural changes in patterns of global agrifood trade over the past decade. The figures underline the way in which developing countries have become the dynamic motor behind agrifood trade flows, a finding which has relevance when discussing the coverage of WTO trade rules.
During this period agrifood trade maintained and even increased its share of total merchandise exports. It share was 6.1% in 2000, but increased to 7.0% in 2009 following the sharp rise in global food prices in 2008-09.… Read the rest