The EU must help its farmers to be more competitive and ensure that agri-food imports respect high EU standards, Agriculture MEPs told Commissioner Wojciechowski, on Tuesday.

In a debate that followed the presentation by Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski of an updated study on the cumulative economic impact of trade agreements on EU agriculture, many MEPs insisted that the EU Commission should do more to help EU farmers to be more globally competitive and should avoid concluding trade deals that are detrimental to EU farmers.

Free but also fair trade and increased EU competitiveness

“All that shimmers is not gold”, said some, including Herbert Dorfmann (EPP, IT), who stressed that the EU should “strive towards agreements that are free and fair” and warned against certain aspects of further trade liberalisation that could hurt EU agriculture. Others, including Paolo De Castro (S&D, IT), insisted on “reciprocity of production standards” and called on the EU to do more to “support the competitiveness” of the EU agri-food sector and even to set up a new “third pillar” of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to this end.

Challenge of imports respecting high EU standards

It is “very important that these trade agreements are not (…) detrimental to our (…) farmers”, said Ulrike Müller (Renew, DE). She noted that while the Farm to Fork strategy would increase EU standards, the “standard of imported products” is an “enormous challenge”.                                                                                          Although “it seems that there are not going to be immense consequences or immense chances” for EU agriculture as a result of the discussed trade agreements, EU standards must be respected and EU competitiveness must not be undermined, Zbigniew Kuźmiuk (ECR, PL) stressed. Ivan David (ID, CZ) criticised the EU, saying that while it creates “very high standards”, it also “supports all these imports”. He also claimed that the “impact [of trade deals] on individual member states is very unevenly distributed”.

Call for a change of direction

“This is a bit of a thin soup which is being presented here”, said Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE) and criticised the EU’s increasing dependence on imports of agri-food products and asked “who is benefiting from more trade”. Luke Ming Flanagan (The Left, IE) criticised the idea of “becoming more competitive” globally and the push for a “cheaper and cheaper” food. This will lead to “rise in extremism (…) unless we change direction”, he concluded.