A much-awaited Commission report assessing the application of EU health and environmental standards on imported agricultural and agri-food products has been published, and it leaves the door open to so-called “mirror clauses”.
The report addresses criticism that the EU has no place dictating how other countries should grow their food by painting the bloc as a green “trailblazer.” The report does not rule out unilateral action if trade negotiations and diplomatic efforts fail to deliver results on what is deemed “necessary” to “regulate global environmental or ethical aspects of imported products.”
Actions must be taken in compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules however, although the report anticipates that trade partners will likely see mirror clauses as controversial and protectionist and so there may need to be “a case-by-case assessment” for WTO compatibility.
The report was welcomed by ministers at the AgriFish Council on June 13, stressing that in several areas, such as animal welfare, the examination of reciprocity was relevant, in particular by mobilizing multilateral forums and bilateral negotiations. However it is expected that there will be a weaker push to enact mirror clauses right now however, as the focus will be on maintaining food security in light of the war in Ukraine.