How the EU’s Green Deal can alter world trade

SDG Ziel 12: Nachhaltige/r Konsum und Produktion
SDG Ziel 2: Kein Hunger
Girl planting a small tree
© Getty Images/andreswd

The climate crisis is one of the core challenges of the 21st century. Contaminated or eroded soils, water shortages and a proliferation of previously non-native pests result in huge reductions in agricultural yields. The European Union is therefore committed to a transformation towards more sustainable use of resources, among other things based on its ambitious Green Deal that is intended to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. This also has impacts on the global trade in agricultural products. Experts attending an Alumniportal Deutschland recently outlined the issues associated with the forthcoming trade agreements to implement the Green Deal – and the potential outcomes it promises.

Strong partners in Africa and Latin America

The EU didn’t opt for the easy fix when it comes to the Green Deal, stressed Dr Katja Freistein from the Academy of International Affairs NRW in her introduction to the online event. ‘I find it fascinating to consider the burden with which the European Union has saddled itself’, she said in reference to the aforementioned climate neutrality. This self-assumed leading role is deemed to be courageous. It is however necessary, and there are a few states that welcome this development. Such as Argentina: “We play a lead role in terms of projects involving low environmental pollution and are an important partner when it comes to decarbonisation’, emphasised its ambassador in Germany, Fernando Brun, via a video message. ‘That’s why we’ve also devoted ourselves to a new generation of more productive and more ecologically sustainable priorities.’ Confident assertions that Argentina – but also the other Latin American countries – can certainly corroborate. German Development Minister Svenja Schulze had good reason to emphasise last summer that it would be impossible to tackle global issues like climate change without these countries.

The EU Green Deal

The EU Green Deal
The EU Green Deal ©

Albeit Europe can also benefit from the African countries –and vice versa. ‘Although the Green Deal is primarily a European policy, it does involve spillover effects for other countries in the Global South’, explains Samuel Weniga Anuga, who is currently a scholarship holder at the University of Ghana conducting research into his country’s transition to a green and circular economy. He previously worked for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH implementing climate protection projects in West Africa. ‘This partnership between the EU and Africa under the Green Deal can contribute to making imports more eco-friendly, meet the need for green energy and promote the transformation to renewable energies in Africa. The treaty can motivate African countries to give precedence to climate adaptation, protect endangered population groups from climatic risks and ensure that local communities have access to energy.’ The latter could among other things be assured if the Green Deal were to be included in future trade agreements. ‘There is at the same time a need to clarify how the can be observed throughout the value chain’, Anuga asserts. ‘This necessarily involves addressing the small farmers’ costs associated with certification, compliance and monitoring as well as the insufficient technical expertise and resources required to adhere to these voluntary sustainability standards.’

‘The EU Green Deal as an opportunity to learn from each other’

The challenges mentioned by Anuga are also recognised by Dr Emanuele Ferrari from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. ‘It’s extremely difficult in a typical trade negotiation to take account of other policy objectives, such as social and ecological sustainability’, he says. ‘They can also conversely be very powerful diplomatic tools in accelerating developments in the domain of sustainability and climate protection.’ The EU is already exploiting this with some success. ‘The important aspect in doing so is that we don’t attempt to define new standards, but rather to reconcile existing ones – so that traders and consumers ultimately benefit from a consistent master agreement that reduces costs and increases trust in the respective products.’

The focal point of the panel discussion saw moderator and DAAD alumna Ana Stoddart present the so-called ‘non-tariff measures’ (NTM), in other words trade barriers aside from the customary tariffs. These include sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, pre-shipment inspections and other formalities, commercial defence measures, intellectual property rights, rules of origin, and many more. ‘The agriculture and food sector is particularly affected by these NTM, which makes them the most significant trade measures in light of tariff reductions during subsequent rounds of trade negotiations’, explained Emanuele Ferrari from the European Commission. The issue at stake: ‘As opposed to transparent and measurable tariffs, there is no consensus regarding the objective, data collection, quantification and modelling of NTM.’ Uniform standards are therefore all the more important. ‘This begins with a definition of sustainability’, emphasised Dr Rene Capote, Senior Technical Expert at GLOBALG.A.P. (FoodPLUS GmbH), a provider of smart farm assurance solutions. ‘We simply have to search for common perspectives if we want to succeed in the long-term. I see the EU’s Green Deal as an outstanding opportunity to learn from each other.’

* mandatory field