An independent study examining EU trade agreements with Mexico, Switzerland and South Korea has shown the deals have boosted agricultural exports by more than €1 billion (£852.8 million) without negatively impacting the domestic market.
Conducting the study on behalf of the Commission, Copenhagen Economics found these three deals also contributed to a record year for EU agri-food exports in 2016, with total exports reaching €130.7 billion (£111.4 billion), up €1.7 billion (£1.4 billion) on 2015.
The US showed the largest increase in annual exports, up €1.26 billion (£1.07 billion), while China increased €1.06 billion (£904 million) and simultaneously the value of EU agri-food imports dropped 1.5% to €112 billion (£9.5 billion).
And the trade agreements showed little impact on domestic EU production, instead reflecting a replacement of imports from other third countries or an increase in EU consumption.
The study investigated the impact on exports of agri-food products of three different types of trade agreement, from the older “first generation” agreements like Mexico, to new generation free trade agreements such as the one with South Korea, as well as specific agreements like Switzerland.
Russian ban and market difficulties
EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, is planning a trade mission to Canada in May, while EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström goes in March, followed by Mexico and Singapore later in the year.
“These three agreements alone have increased EU agri-food exports by more than €1 billion and have raised value-added in the agri-food sector by €600 million,” says Hogan.
“Just as importantly, this increase in exports has supported thousands of jobs in total across the EU, most of which in the agri-food sector, including in primary agriculture.
“These figures are clear evidence that ambitious and balanced trade deals work for European food and farming.”
Over the last two years, the EU agri-food industry has faced serious difficulties, including the Russian fresh produce ban and slow demand from China.
During this time the Commission has been searching for alternative markets outside the EU and Commissioner Hogan has led trade missions to Colombia, China, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia, in a bid to boost exports.
The study also shows the deals are mutually beneficial, increasing trade in both directions.
The agri-food sector accounted for 7.5% of total EU exports in goods in 2016; 6.6% of all imported goods are agri-food products.