This article is wrong about some aspects of the law. Let me quickly run through them.
1) It claims that demanding another country to abide by animal welfare standards to conclude an FTA would be illegal. That is wrong.
The argument the article makes is that animal welfare is not a subject of WTO law (we’ll get there). And accordingly you cannot put it into an FTA. That logical link does not exist. You can put stuff into an FTA that does not exist in the WTO, for example
You can proclaim that you will only conclude FTAs with democracies. You can say “to get an FTA with us, you need to comply with the Paris Agreement”.
You cannot deny WTO-compliant treatment on this basis. You can deny granting better conditions.
Just to give you some actual examples: The US forced countries into adopting the US rule of linking patent status and FDA approval of a drug. It forced others to adopt the US rules on data exclusivity.
In fact, getting other countries to adopt US IP standards is literally in the act empowering POTUS to negotiate FTAs.
2) animal welfare is not in the WTO. This is actually a tough one. Because the general exception that IS in Art. XX (b) GATT referes to measures ”necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health”.
But the details of this, including the WTO‘s case law on US efforts to save turtles in shrimp fishing and dolphins in tuna fishing could fill up books.
Actually delete that: the DO fill up books.
3) What the article doesn’t say: forcing UK manufacturers to comply with high animal welfare standards and allowing in products from producers that have far lower standards without trade barriers is a great advantage to those with lower standards.
Or in short: UK animal welfare standards have to be lowered or some UK producers will face tough times because they are uncompetitive. You cannot profess pride in the strict UK rules and make it an impossibility to survive in a competitive environment because of those rules.
I have no beef either way. But let’s just acknowledge the complexities. We think our standards are too high? By all means, lower them. But that debate should be had on the merits.
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