- Concerns that the EUDR JTF is just a ‘talk shop’ are rising
- Opposition to the EUDR is spreading to more of Europe’s trading partners
- This opposition has been raised at the WTO on numerous occasions
This week Politico ran a (subscriber only) piece on rising skepticism emerging on the EUDR Joint Task Force.
According to Politico, exporters are expressing concern that the JTF’s Terms of Reference may mean that the JTF ends up being nothing more than a confab – rather than a negotiation.
Politico suggested the JTF’s terms of reference very much look like ‘EU-speak’ for a “talking-shop” that’s big on process, but very light on outcomes – the exact opposite of what Indonesia and Malaysia were hoping for, i.e. influencing the implementation process.
The Task Force Terms of Reference – which POM has seen – certainly appear that way. As we’ve previously noted, the risk is that the JTF ends up being an ‘outreach’ activity by the EU.
This is going to add to the temperature rising around the EUDR, on the back of President Jokowi calling for the “abolition” of the EUDR at the recent G20 meeting in India, and a group of 17 nations writing directly to the EU, calling for greater consideration of the impacts on development in the Global South.
A key difference between this letter and a similar one that was circulated in November of last year is that is has three additional signatories: the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Thailand.
Thailand has found itself on the receiving end of similar regulations before, particularly around fisheries. When it spoke about regulation at the WTO earlier this year, a Thai official noted:
“I have heard many times the EU saying that most of these regulations will have to be implemented by the importers, but of course importers will have to coordinate and pass on some of the burden of proof to the exporting countries. We are very worried that this will be pervasive and have a broad impact on everybody. We consider that the amount of time that the EU has allowed for consultation with other countries, WTO or non-WTO, has been very short.”
What the Thai comments demonstrate is that the regulation is going to have impacts on countries that go well beyond countries that would ordinarily be considered “high risk” countries, and become yet another non-tariff measure that makes exporting to the EU more complex.
Even Japan raised concerns about the regulation at the WTO, stating:
“It is difficult to set uniform regulations that focus only on “no deforestation,” given the different circumstances in each country, such as environmental conditions and geographical industrial conditions. It is necessary to pursue and promote a market-oriented approach that also takes into account the circumstances of exporting countries, and that takes into account the importance of sustainable agricultural and food supply chains and sustainable forest management.”
Many of the EU’s trading partners are already gearing themselves up for a fight when it comes to the EUDR. The regulation has many flaws, but the key mistake the EU is making right now is disregarding demands for transparency when it comes to benchmarking.
As with the Renewable Energy Directive, if the methodology is political rather than scientific, it will end up costing the EU dearly.
It’s worth remembering that there are currently three active WTO cases between the EU and Indonesia concerning palm oil. Perhaps the EU can expect one more.