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EU set to sign trade and investment agreements with Vietnam

The Council of Ministers today approved the EU-Vietnam trade and investment agreements, paving the way for their signature on Sunday 30 June in Hanoi. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said: “I welcome the decision taken today by EU Member States. After Singapore, the agreements with Vietnam are the second to have been concluded between the EU and a Southeast Asian country, and represent stepping stones to a greater engagement between Europe and the region. It is also a political statement by two partners and friends standing together for open, fair and rules-based trade.” Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “I am very pleased to see that Member States have given a green light to our trade and investment agreements with Vietnam. Vietnam is a vibrant and promising market of more than 95 million consumers and both sides have much to gain from stronger trade relations. Beyond the clear economic benefits, this deal also aims to strengthen respect for human rights as well as protecting the environment and workers’ rights. I welcome Vietnam’s engagement in the process so far – their recent ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention on collective bargaining is an excellent example of how trade agreements can encourage higher standards.” The agreements are set to bring unprecedented benefits for European and Vietnamese companies, consumers and workers, while promoting respect for labour rights and the fight against climate change under the Paris Agreement. For more information, see the press release available online, as well as documents on the dedicated webpages. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska – Tel: +32 229 51383)

Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here


Dual Food Quality:  Commission releases study assessing differences in the composition of EU food products

Since his State of the Union Address in 2017, President Jean-Claude Juncker has been committed to addressing the issue of dual quality of products. The European Commission has taken forward different initiatives and today has published a study following tests of food products across the EU using the same methodology, in order to better understand the dual quality of food products in the EU.Analysing nearly 1,400 food products in 19 EU countries, the study, carried out by the Commission’s in-house science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre, shows that 9% of the compared products differed in composition, although the front-of-pack was identical. A further 22% of products with a different composition had a similar front-of-pack. The study did not show a consistent geographical pattern. Based on the new methodology developed, national competent authorities will now be able to perform the case-by-case analysis required to determine misleading practices prohibited under EU consumer law. Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, responsible for the Joint Research Centre, said: “Some Europeans feel branded food products they buy are different, perhaps worse, compared to those available elsewhere. The Commission called on our scientists to help objectively assess the extent of such differences on the single market. The results are mixed: while I am happy that they found no evidence of an East-West divide in the composition of branded food products, I am worried that they uncovered up to one third of tested products having different compositions while being identically or similarly branded.” Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said: “There will be no double standards in Europe’s single market. With the new laws penalising the dual quality and strengthening the hands of the consumer authorities, we have the tools at hand to put an end to this practice. European consumers will be able to do their shopping in full trust that they buy what they see.” The Commission launches today a new call for proposals with a total budget of €1.26 million to strengthen consumer organisations’ capacities to test products and identify potentially misleading practices. The deadline for applications is 6 November 2019. The study is available online. (For more information: Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel.: +32 229 67083; Christian Wigand – Tel.: +32 229 62253; Joseph Waldstein – Tel.: +32 229 56184; Melanie Voin – Tel.: +32 229 58659)


Commission publishes recommendations on improving the Single Market for food

Today the Commission published the final report of the High Level Forum for a Better Functioning Food Supply Chain, which provides recommendations in the areas of fair and efficient trading practices, competitiveness and price transparency. Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, responsible for the Internal Market Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs said: “The Forum has done important work to counter unfair trading practices, improve producer cooperation and improve transparency in the food supply chain. Today’s report points towards a number of important outstanding issues. By improving the Single Market for food, we can boost the efficiency of the food sector and create new jobs.” The Juncker Commission has been developing the industrial policy in the agro-food sector and related policy measures, which contribute to a better functioning of the food supply chain. The Forum, consisting of representatives of consumers, NGOs, food chain operators and Member States, assisted the Commission with this task. Building on the work of the Forum, the Commission has put forward proposals to address unfair trading practices, improve producer cooperation and introduce greater price transparency. To increase transparency, the Forum proposes to create a price composition indicator to be launched in autumn. It will show how consumer expenditure is distributed within the food supply chain. The tender for this project has been opened today. The report also highlights the lack of harmonised rules and uneven enforcement in certain areas as well as problems with territorial supply constraints. Furthermore, the report provides recommendations on how to better respond to consumer concerns on dual food quality and provide better information to them. The Forum gave a mandate to the Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) to develop a common methodology for comparing the quality of food products across the EU. The JRC then conducted a pan-European testing campaign of food products, the results of which have been published today by the European Commission. (For more information: Lucía Caudet – Tel.: + 32 229 56182; Victoria von Hammerstein – Tel.: +32 229 55040)


Commissioner Arias Cañete in Germany to discuss the integrated national energy and climate plan

Today, Climate Action and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete, will be in Germany to present the  Commission’s long-term vision for a climate-neutral economy by 2050, adopted by the Commission last November. He will first meet Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, to exchange views on climate neutrality objectives and to discuss growth opportunities arising from the modernisation and transition towards a climate neutral economy. Later today, the Commissioner will meet Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the Environment. Their meeting will focus on the importance of ambitious and rigorous National Energy and Climate plans to maintain the EU leading position in the fight against global warming. Discussions will also cover Energy Union governance process specific points, the Emission Trading System, carbon pricing and nuclear energy. This visit is part of a number of country visits by the Commissioner aimed at discussing the Commission’s long-term vision with Member States, in order to identify the most cost efficient and socially fair measures and policies to deliver on the Paris Agreement temperature goals. (For more information: Anna-Kaisa Itkonen – Tel.: +32 229 56186; Lynn Rietdorf – Tel.: +32 229 74959)


Commissioners Vytenis Andriukaitis attends e-commerce food conference in Berlin

Today, June 24, Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis in charge of Health and Food Safety will be in Berlin to attend the conference on e-Commerce of food: ‘International Conference on Trends and Official Control’. The conference, co-organized by the European Commission and the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) aims to bring together key stakeholders from across the e-Commerce of food sector. The Commissioner will deliver a welcome speech to open the event at 13.00 CET upon arrival. Following his, the speeches from Julia Klöckner, the German Federal Minister for Agriculture, Herbert Dorfmann, MEP, and Helmut Tschiersky, President of the BVL, will also be heard. Later that afternoon, Commissioner Andriukaitis will take part in a panel discussion on the responsibility of market places and fulfilment centres. The next morning on Tuesday June 25, the Commissioner visits the AMAZON FRESH Fulfillment Centre in Berlin. Ahead of his visit, Commissioner Andriukaitis said: “This event is very timely as the EU is already one of the largest e-commerce markets in the world and we expect more and more people, especially younger generations, to buy food products online in the coming years. Whilst Internet shopping brings opportunities for consumers and businesses, we need to make sure that safety, authenticity and transparency are respected. The EU new official controls legislation has already foreseen the tools to make enforcement possible and to protect our citizens.” (For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel: +32 229 91269; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)


Read the European Commission – Daily News in full here

Dairy market: public stocks of skimmed milk powder now empty

At the last tender sale, the remaining 162 tonnes of skimmed milk powder out of a total, original amount of 380,000 tonnes in public stocks were sold, fully emptying as a result the total stocks bought and managed by the Commission. Agriculture and rural development Commissioner Phil Hogan said: “Today’s sale of the last remaining public stocks of skimmed milk powder closes a chapter. The disposal of the stock, without impacting on the price of skimmed milk powder, is a vindication of the Commission’s patience and prudent management of the whole process since 2015. The results of the Commission’s actions are higher prices and a stable market. Once again, the European Commission has shown its commitment and support to and solidarity with European farmers in times of crisis. It also illustrates the necessity and the efficiency of the Common Agricultural Policy’s instruments. The right tools acted as a vital safety net during a time of significant market disturbance and their appropriate and timely deployment has helped to secure the viability of [tens/hundreds] of thousands of European dairy farmers.” Following the dairy market crisis that hit EU producers with lower prices in 2015-2016, the European Commission bought from 2015 to 2017 a total of 380,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder (SMP) through public intervention. The objective was to stabilise the market and support farmers’ income. From the end of 2016, a process of monthly and later bi-monthly public tenders was opened by the Commission to carefully sell the products back into the market without disrupting it.Two years and a half since the first public tender, the public stocks are now empty and the milk price has significantly increased from 26 cent per kilo in summer 2016 to 34 cent per kilo in May 2019. All details of the tender process are fully documented online in the Milk Market Observatory portal. A press release is online. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel: +32 2 29 56185; Clémence Robin – Tel: +32 229 52 509)


Africa-Europe alliance: a political declaration for a stronger partnership in agriculture, food and farming

On the occasion of the third African Union – European Union agricultural ministerial conference, African Union and the European Union representatives will for the first time endorse a Political Declaration, accompanied by an action agenda, with the overall aim of further strengthening the Africa-EU partnership in food and farming at all levels. From climate action to an African-European farmers’ cooperation programme, these actions build on the recommendations put forward by the Task Force Rural Africa back in March 2019, an agri-food and rural agenda for the new ‘Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs’ unveiled by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in September 2018. Commissioner Phil Hogan said: “This Political Declaration represents an historic commitment by both continents to a shared agenda for greater action; building a partnership of equals for developing policies in the areas of food security, climate action, sustainable management of resources, rural job creation, sustainable investment and fair trade. It should be viewed as a very positive step on the path towards a more sustainable and prosperous future for rural communities in Africa and Europe.” The Political Declaration is a strong signal reflecting the shift in Africa-Europe relations based on promoting policy dialogue and cooperation as a development tool at all levels: people to people, business to business and government to government. The action agenda reflects these three levels with concrete actions involving cooperation between the two continents in different areas like farmers’ organisations, food safety, research and innovation and geographical indications. More information is online.

For more details see European Commission Daily News

Barriers to trade: EU continues opening up export markets for European firms

The European Commission’s report released today confirms the continuous rise in barriers encountered by European companies in foreign markets. Thanks to the EU’s firm response, 123 such barriers have been eliminated since the beginning of the current Commission mandate, allowing for more than €6 billion extra exports in 2018. Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “In the complex context we have today with a growing number of trade tensions and protectionist measures, the EU must keep defending the interests of its companies in the global markets. Making sure that the existing rules are respected is of utmost importance. Thanks to our successful interventions, 123 barriers hindering EU exports opportunities have been removed since I took office in late 2014. Working on specific problems reported by our companies we manage to deliver economic benefits equivalent in value to those brought by the EU’s trade agreements. Those efforts certainly must continue.” The latest edition of the Trade and Investment Barriers Report identifies 45 new trade barriers put in place in countries outside the EU in 2018, bringing the total number to a record high of 425 measures in 59 different countries. Intervening in close collaboration with EU Member States and businesses under the EU’s enhanced Market Access Strategy, the Commission has eliminated last year as much as 35 trade barriers, among others in China, Japan, India and Russia. For more information, see the press release, the report and examples of a successful EU intervention available online.

The European Commission increases support for the EU’s beekeeping sector

The European Commission will provide €120 million to the EU’s beekeeping sector over the next three years to support its essential role in agriculture and the environment. This represents an increase of €12 million compared to the support provided for the period from 2017 to 2019. This amount, doubled by national contributions from Member States, will apply to national apiculture programmes starting on 1 August 2019 and running until 31 July 2022. These programmes are designed by Member States in cooperation with the sector at national level with the aim to improve the conditions for the apiculture sector and the marketing of their products. Measures include for example education to beekeepers, support to start a beekeeping business, fighting against parasites damaging hives, and research or measures on improving honey quality. In 2018, the EU had over 17.5 million hives divided over 600,000 beekeepers. Beekeeping is practiced in all EU Member States and the European Union is the world’s second largest honey producer. Honeybee colonies are essential for agriculture and environment, ensuring plant reproduction by pollination, while beekeeping participates to the development of rural areas. More information on the EU’s support to the sector is available here.

For further details see European Commission Daily News

The European Union and the United States reach an agreement on imports of hormone-free beef

The Commission shared today with Member States the successful outcome of the negotiations to review the functioning of an existing quota to import hormone-free beef into the EU. Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said:“With the successful outcome of the negotiations, the Commission has delivered on a very important issue with a major trade partner with which we are engaged in broader trade talks. With this step, the European Union reaffirms its commitment to bring about a new phase in the relationship with the United States, in line with the agreement reached between Presidents Juncker and Trump in July 2018. I also want to reiterate that the agreement will not change the overall volume, quality or safety of the beef imported into the EU, which will remain in compliance with the high European standards.” Based on a Council mandate, the Commission reached an agreement in principle with the United States and other substantial supplying countries that 35,000 tonnes of this quota will be allocated to the U.S., phased over a 7 year period, with the remaining amount left available for all other exporters. In 2009, the EU and the U.S. concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), revised in 2014, which provided for an interim solution to a longstanding dispute in the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the use of certain growth-promoting hormones in beef production. Under the agreement, a 45,000 tonnes quota of non-hormone treated beef was open by the EU to qualifying suppliers, which included the United States. Following the conclusion of this mutually satisfactory outcome in line with WTO rules, the Commission will submit legal proposals for the Council to authorise its signature and to conclude the agreement with the United States in the coming months, after seeking the consent of the European Parliament.

For details in full see European Commission Daily News

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