Food and agricultural products imported to the European Union may soon have to meet the E.U.’s health and environmental standards.

Food and agricultural products imported to the E.U. come primarily from Argentina, Brazil, China, Switzerland, Turkey, Indonesia, Ukraine, Ivory Coast and the United States.

Those countries would have to comply with the E.U. standards or see their trade disrupted. Cheyenne McEndaffer, the U.S. Meat Export Federation spokesman, has expressed opposition to the E.U.’s idea.

“Under the World Trade Organization (WTO), applying E.U. standards or regulations to an importing country just for the sake of applying them without very clear, defined human or animal health risks is not compliant,” McEndaffer said.

“We (the U.S.) have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, but that’s really dictated by voluntary and commercial practices at the farm level, as well as a third party and regulatory standards at the slaughter plant level,” he added.

Farmers and ranchers in the United States and many European producers and exporters are expressing opposition to the E.U.’s plans. European exporters might face retaliatory duties if the WTO finds forced E.U. standards are non-compliant with trade agreements.

As for the E.U., the 27 European member nations have maintained a trade balance in the agriculture and food sector since 2010.
Ukraine is traditionally one of Europe’s largest food and agricultural regions. Trade is currently in turmoil because of the war in Ukraine and E.U. sanctions against Russia for the invasion.

One example of the tension between U.S. and E.U. standards involves washing chicken in chlorine and other disinfectants to remove harmful bacteria.

A standard practice in the U.S., the rinse was banned by the E.U. in 1997 over food safety concerns. The European Food Safety Authority is not concerned about chorine but the production process as possible compensation for poor hygiene standards — such as dirty or crowded abattoirs.

The European Union (EU)  consists of 27 Member States with approximately 445 million people.

EU members share a customs union, a single market in which goods can move freely, a common trade policy, and a common agricultural and fisheries policies.

The EU Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.

The United Kingdom left the European Union on Jan. 31, 2020.

Montenegro, North Macedonia, Turkey, Albania, and Serbia are candidates to join the EU.

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