MEPs call for fair, transparent trade in fish

European Parliament is calling for an urgent revision of the outdated common market organisation in fishery products. European Parliament is calling for an urgent revision of the outdated common market organisation in fishery products.

The EU's fishing and aquaculture industries must not be exposed to unfair competition from imports, according to a new resolution adopted by European Parliament, which calls for fishery products to be classified as "sensitive" in global trade talks.

Fisheries and aquaculture do not lend themselves to a purely free-trade approach, believe MEPs. Reasonable, adjustable tariff protection should remain a tool to regulate imports, while products from third countries should meet the same standards as European-produced fish.

European production falls well short of EU demand: already 60% is met by imports, acknowledged the resolution on the future EU fisheries import policy, drafted by Alain Cadec (EPP, FR). However, MEPs strongly insist that the future EU import arrangements must not affect the overall goal of the upcoming fisheries reform: to preserve viable fishery and aquaculture sectors.

The resolution, which seeks to influence the upcoming reform of the common fisheries policy, was adopted by 374 votes to 13 with 11 abstentions.

"The European Parliament now co-legislates with the Council when it comes to the common trade policy, including on fisheries policy," said Cadec, adding: "the European Commission and Council need to take into account the considerations of the Parliament expressed in this report."  

Customs protection, which is adjustable, should continue to be a legitimate instrument to regulate imports, argued the resolution. Moreover, it is tariff protection that gives meaning to the preferences granted to developing countries.

Parliament believes that responsibility for leading the EU's trade talks on fishery and aquaculture products should be transferred from the trade commissioner to the commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries. It also calls for fishery and aquaculture products to be treated as sensitive products in the WTO’s talks on gradual tariff reduction.

The Commission should ensure that any agreement on subsidies in the fisheries sector does not place European producers at a competitive disadvantage.

MEPs insist that imports meet the same standards as EU production in every respect: environmental, labour, health and quality. Agreements granting trade preferences should include credible mechanisms for monitoring whether environmental and social commitments are met and allow for preferences to be suspended or withdrawn in the event of non-compliance.

A massive influx of imports could influence the eating habits of European consumers; however, customers would often make different choices if they were better informed about the true nature of products on sale (their origin and production or catch conditions). MEPs therefore demand stringent and transparent criteria for quality, traceability and labelling.

Lastly, Parliament has repeated its call for an urgent revision of the outdated common market organisation in fishery products, so that it contributes to guaranteeing earnings in the sector, ensuring market stability and increasing the added value of European products.

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