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EU institutions prepare their trilogue on fish products market access conditions

07 April 2013

The European institutions – Parliament, Council and Commission – are preparing their informal trilogue, to find an agreement for a reformed common fisheries policy (CFP). A first preparatory note has been released, comparing the positions of the three institutions on the Common Markets Organisation (CMO) in fishery and aquaculture products. 

The Commission’s initial proposal stated that CMO provisions should be implemented in compliance with the Union’s international commitments, in particular WTO provisions. However, Council and Parliament insist that, to ensure that Union and imported products compete on equal terms, fishery and aquaculture imported products should respect requirements of sustainability and social standards ‘equivalent to those which apply to European products’.

The European Parliament adds that given the large volumes of imported fish products, which account for more than 60% of EU fish products consumption, it is essential for the CMO: ‘to form part of a commercial and customs policy geared to regulating imports and mitigating their effects on the first-sale prices paid to Union producers and the profitability of their activities.’

Both Council and Parliament insist that consistency needs to be achieved between the CFP – of which CMO is part – and the trade policy, with the latter ‘being used systematically to further the objectives of the former, both in WTO multilateral negotiations and in connection with bilateral and regional trade agreements’. In particular, the Parliament underlines that: ‘care should be taken to avoid excessively broad definitions of the preferential origin of fishery and aquaculture products, as well as any exceptions to the standard definitions that would undermine product traceability and cause confusion as to where and how a given product has been sourced.’

Finally, both the Council and the Parliament invite the Commission to consider establishing minimum standards for an ‘EU sustainability label for fisheries and aquaculture products’.

Editorial comment

The CFP reform process is now nearing its final stages, whereby the institutions have to reach an agreement by the end of June. The elements outlined here have gathered a relatively high degree of consensus between Parliament and Council, and are thus likely to be reflected in the final outcome from the ‘trilogue’ negotiations. These issues will influence market access conditions for ACP fish products. There is therefore a need for ACP countries to closely and continually monitor both this process and how, after an agreement has been reached on the general principles, it will be translated into the implementing regulations to be proposed by the European Commission.

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