After two decades, the European Union (EU) and the four core Mercosur nations—Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay—concluded negotiations for a trade agreement in Brussels in June 2019. Now, the agreement—officially known as the EU-Mercosur Association Agreement—is set to be conditional upon animal welfare requirements for the first time.

According to The Guardian, eggs imported from the Mercosur nations to EU member states will only be duty-free if the hens are kept in line with EU standards under the provisional terms of the new trade agreement. Since 2012, EU farmers are not allowed to keep hens in barren battery cages. Previous EU free trade deals have included aspirational provisions on animal welfare, but this is the first time the elimination of tariffs have been conditional upon particular standards being upheld.

Campaigning organization Eurogroup for Animals welcomed the condition. “This is an important turning point in EU trade policy and an approach we would like to see extended to other animal-based products, either using species specific standards when available, or at least all relevant horizontal standards such as these on transport, which at the moment do not apply to animals transported strictly within third countries,” said Reineke Hameleers, director of Eurogroup for Animals. The group remains in opposition to the Mercosur deal because there is not a similar prerequisite for beef and chicken meat and egg product imports and called for the approach to be extended.

Both sides are now preparing the final version of the trade agreement, the largest the EU has ever struck in terms of tariff reduction, before it is submitted to EU member states and the EU parliament for approval.

The Guardian article

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