Procedure : 2008/0202(CNS)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0122/2009

Texts tabled :

A6-0122/2009

Debates :

Votes :

PV 02/04/2009 - 9.3
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2009)0198

REPORT     *
PDF 139kWORD 78k
6.3.2009
PE 419.905v02-00 A6-0122/2009

on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation amending Annex 11 to the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on trade in agricultural products

(15523/2008 – COM(2008)0685 – C6‑0028/2009 – 2008/0202(CNS))

Committee on International Trade

Rapporteur: Béla Glattfelder

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION
 EXPLANATORY STATEMENT
 PROCEDURE

DRAFT EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT LEGISLATIVE RESOLUTION

on the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation amending Annex 11 to the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on trade in agricultural products

(15523/2008 – COM(2008)0685 – C6‑0028/2009 – 2008/0202(CNS))

(Consultation procedure)

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the proposal for a Council decision (COM(2008)0685),

–   having regard to the draft Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation amending Annex 11 to the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on trade in agricultural products

(15523/2008),

–   having regard to Articles 37, 133 and 152(4)(b) of the EC Treaty,

–   having regard to Article 300(3), first subparagraph, of the EC Treaty, pursuant to which the Council consulted Parliament (C6‑0028/2009),

–   having regard to Rules 51 and 83(7) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on International Trade (A6‑0122/2009),

1.  Approves the conclusion of the Agreement;

2.  Instructs its President to forward its position to the Council and the Commission, and the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the Swiss Confederation.


EXPLANATORY STATEMENT

The report endorses the Council Decision on the signing on behalf of the Community and the provisional application of the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation amending Annex 11 to the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on trade in agricultural products.

The current Agreement

Trade relations between the European Union and Switzerland are ruled by a package of seven sectoral commercial agreements signed on 21 June 1999, ratified in early 2002, and implemented since June 1, 2002.

The Agreement on agriculture allowed a partial liberalisation by both parties in some agricultural sectors while it preserved barriers for cereals, milk, and meat. It also foresaw that non-tariff barriers (such as product regulations and admission requirements) were to be reduced through the mutual recognition of the equivalence of regulations. Necessary efforts have been made to finalize such agreements on products such as wine and spirits, biological agricultural products, plants, and seeds.

Content of the Annex 11 of the current Agreement

The final Annex of the Agreement (Annex 11) has dealt with animal-health, veterinary public health and zootechnical measures applicable to trade in live animals and pets and animal products. Progress had been made since 2002. The equivalence of regulations in the field of hygiene for all foodstuffs of animal origin was recognised at the end of 2006. This equivalence covered only milk and dairy products and the fight against epizootic diseases. It has meant that foodstuffs from animal origin, such as cheese, meat specialties, eggs and honey could be exported without health certificate.

This new agreement amends Annex 11 to take into account of these changes. For animal health, the Agreement is based on the principle of recognition of “similar legislation leading to identical result” for animal health as regards trade in live animals, semen, ova, embryos and other products of animal origin and based on rules applicable for intra-community trade. Therefore the convergence of Swiss and EU laws on the matter should cause removal of double-checks.

For veterinary public health, the Agreement is based on principles of equivalency, with a view to facilitate trade of products of animal origin. For live animals, semen, ova and embryos traded between EU Member States and Switzerland, they are accompanied by intra-community trade animal health certificates only. For products of animal origin, only commercial documents as foreseen for trade between EU Member States are necessary. For both, a simplified veterinary control regime is applied at the EU borders for live animals and products of animal origin.

This proposal also includes changes to Annex 11 consistent with modifications of its appendix made by the Joint Veterinary Committee, which does not have the power to amends the Annex 11 itself.

Approval of the agreement amending Annex 11

The agreement under consideration makes a positive step in facilitating conditions for trade of live animals and animal products. By further amending Annex 11, both partners are taking supplementary measures to ensure smooth and sustainable flows of agricultural products between them. Indeed, given the gradual adoption of the core EU law acquis by Switzerland on matters related to trade of agricultural products and the adoption by both sides of common practices on import controls, it does not make sense to keep placing additional obligations on exchanges of such products.

The rapporteur approves this agreement and wishes to seize this opportunity to emphasize the benefits and the challenged raised by EU trade in agricultural products with Switzerland. In this type of trade, Switzerland is now the 7th source of imports and the 3rd destination of exports for the EU. This country has a big role to play in ensuring a fair supply of agricultural products in the European Common market. A move towards more market integration in agriculture between the EU and Switzerland is very much appreciated.

Future bilateral trade agreements in agricultural products

A lot of negotiations remain, however, necessary to ensure that EU farmers get access to the very important Swiss market. Despite remarkable efforts, the Swiss market stays one of the most protected in the world, which prevents European producers from competing in fair conditions on that market.

Recently, the European Commission DG Agriculture has launched negotiations with the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, aiming at full liberalisation of trade in agriculture between the EU and Switzerland. These talks will include tackling non-tariff barriers (NTBs) such as food and feed safety or veterinary and phytosanitary standards, the European Commission being represented by DG Health and Consumer protection.

So far, the prospect of a FTA seems very positive for EU producers. Current price levels are around 30% higher in Switzerland than in the EU. Therefore a FTA would enable the EU to increase its market share there. Already, the EU is already an important cereals supplier for Switzerland. Bigger gains would occur in dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and wines and spirits. As for trade in meat, the EU producers face strong competition from other countries, particularly Brazil.

On NTBs, adaptation by the Swiss side to European regulations, in particular animal health and marketing rules, seems necessary. Reaching also a commitment from their part to try to adopt future EU regulations, possibly after having been consulted in the process, would be a very good achievement for these talks.

The rapporteur sees rather positively these attempts at further integrating both markets. An agreement would contribute to improve the productivity of both partners' agricultural sector and to bring food prices to a fair and relatively stable level of prices for citizen.

However, both parties should negotiate with caution towards a fully-liberalised trade exchanges. The volume of bilateral trade is very significant and the impact of such barrier removal could be very high, especially on the agricultural economy of EU countries neighbouring Switzerland and on Swiss farmers.

The Swiss side has initiated this negotiation and sees this FTA as a logical step, in line with its internal reforms carried out up to now in the farming sector with the aim of making Swiss agriculture more competitive on international markets. The recent soar of food prices may have opened opportunities for the Swiss agricultural producers to export by making them relatively more competitive but, structurally, only opening to foreign competition can ensure gains of competitiveness.

Opening up to the EU would lower production costs for Swiss farmers and the processing industries and improve access to EU markets. However, it might also reward more the Swiss agri-processing and food companies than their farmers, which could impede progress towards a bilateral deal. In light of these potential obstacles in the negotiations, the rapporteur warns against unjustified EU concession to the Swiss side, in particular on geographical indications, especially on cheese.

Conclusions

Over the course of these future negotiations towards a bilateral FTA in agriculture, the European Commission should pay particular attention to reaching a deal that benefit producers in both parties while enhancing EU consumers’ access to a diversity of safe agricultural products. The European Parliament will closely monitor these negotiations and calls up the Commission and the Council to observe its rights in the field of international trade.


PROCEDURE

Title

Approving the Agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation on trade in agricultural products

References

15523/2008 – C6-0028/2009 – COM(2008)06852008/0202(CNS)

Date of consulting Parliament

19.1.2009

Committee responsible

       Date announced in plenary

INTA

3.2.2009

Committee(s) asked for opinion(s)

       Date announced in plenary

AGRI

3.2.2009

 

 

 

Not delivering opinions

       Date of decision

AGRI

1.12.2008

 

 

 

Rapporteur(s)

       Date appointed

Béla Glattfelder

4.12.2008

 

 

Discussed in committee

24.2.2009

 

 

 

Date adopted

5.3.2009

 

 

 

Result of final vote

+:

–:

0:

11

0

3

Members present for the final vote

Kader Arif, Françoise Castex, Glyn Ford, Jacky Hénin, Marusya Ivanova Lyubcheva, Erika Mann, David Martin, Georgios Papastamkos, Peter Šťastný, Gianluca Susta

Substitute(s) present for the final vote

Ole Christensen, Sajjad Karim, Zbigniew Zaleski

Substitute(s) under Rule 178(2) present for the final vote

André Brie

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