WRITTEN QUESTION No. 949/98 by Mark WATTS to the Commission. Impact on animal protection of the GATT/WTO
OJ C 354, 19.11.1998, p. 44 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)
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WRITTEN QUESTION E-0949/98 by Mark Watts (PSE) to the Commission (30 March 1998)
Subject: Impact on animal protection of the GATT/WTO
Fears of GATT challenges have already led the EU severely to dilute two of its key animal protection measures, namely the ban on the import of pelts from countries using the leghold trap and the prohibition on the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals.
The GATT/WTO could well deter the EU from introducing new animal protection measures, as while the EU can, under the GATT, prohibit the use of a cruel system within its own territory, it cannot prohibit the import of products derived from animals subjected to that system.
Does the Commission agree that the GATT/WTO poses a threat to the introduction of improved standards of animal protection? Is the Commission in favour of the EU taking the lead at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Geneva in May in persuading the other WTO contracting parties of the need to reform the GATT/WTO to ensure that it does not prevent contracting parties from introducing measures genuinely aimed at securing improved standards of animal protection?
Answer given by Sir Leon Brittan on behalf of the Commission (7 May 1998)
It is correct that the Community's obligations under the World trade organisation (WTO) agreement are among the elements which must be taken into account when developing any policies which may affect trade, including those mentioned by the Honourable Member. However, as the Honourable Member indicates the General agreement on tariffs and trade (GATT)/WTO does not prevent the introduction of measures which are considered to be necessary for the protection of animals on the territory of the Community.
It is the Commission's view that it cannot unilaterally impose the Community's welfare-based production standards on third countries. For example, WTO rules do not permit the Community to prohibit imports of cosmetic products on the sole ground that they have been tested on animals, even if the Community imposes such an animal-testing ban for marketing of Community products. Rather than proceeding to an import ban of such products, the Community should focus on the creation of multilateral standards for animal welfare. The Community should first try to convince its trading partners to modify their policies in the direction it thinks appropriate. Consumers in Europe should, moreover, be in a position to make an informed choice about the animal welfare aspects of the products they buy, for example through labelling schemes.
Given that animal welfare is becoming increasingly relevant in terms of international trade, this issue may in the future be raised in the WTO context. The possibility of amending WTO rules to address welfare concerns more generally will be addressed in the context of the determination of the Community's negotiating objectives for the next stage of the WTO negotiations.