MEPs and ministers make final bid for deal on unfair trade practices

The European Parliament's negotiator Paolo De Castro (R) accepted to re-open the talks with the Council over the unfair trade practices (UTPs). [EPA/WARNAND]

Both the current Austrian and incoming Romanian presidencies asked rapporteur Paolo De Castro to return to the negotiating table ‘in the spirit of Christmas’ for an unexpected final round of talks on unfair trade practice (UTPs) scheduled for today (19 December) starting from 11.

After the fifth trilogue ended up again without an agreement, on 12 December the European Parliament’s negotiator De Castro announced that talks on UTPs would resume under the Romanian Council Presidency at the beginning of next year.

According to De Castro, the Council’s proposal on the table still lacked “the ambition we would like to enshrine in it.”

Austrian Elisabeth Köstinger and Romanian Petre Daea, the two ministers in charge of negotiating UTPs with the Parliament on behalf of the Council, sent De Castro a letter on Monday (17 December) asking “for a very last effort to conclude this important dossier jointly before Christmas” by re-opening the talks.

“In the spirit of Christmas, we are looking forward to your positive reply and a constructive trilogue meeting ahead,” said the letter seen by EURACTIV.com.

A positive outcome of negotiation could be presented to the EU farmers as “a Christmas gift they will cherish for a long time,” the ministers added.

De Castro has accepted the invitation but was clear that Parliament has little room to manoeuvre and provided that “the Council’s own margin of manoeuvre would, under such circumstances, be sufficient to successfully bridge the remaining gap between our respective positions.”

The European Commission presented its much-awaited proposals for a directive to tackle unfair trade practices in the food supply chain last April and negotiations between ministers and MEPs started in October.

With this new set of rules, the EU aims to correct the imbalances in the food supply chain created by large operators against trading partners with weak bargaining power, such as individual farmers.

EU farmers say they receive on average 21% of the share of the value of agricultural products while 28% goes to processors and as much as 51% to retailers.

EU Parliament resists retailers’ pressure, starts talks on unfair trade practices

Brushing aside pressure from EU retailers, the European Parliament gave Paolo De Castro, a socialist MEP and rapporteur for unfair trade practices, the mandate on Thursday (25 October) to immediately start trilogue negotiations on the issue with the EU Council and Commission.

Deal seems likely

An EU source confirmed to EURACTIV that there is still a large gap between the sides on two issues in particular: the type of firms the new rule will apply and the list of unfair practices.

However, there is still optimism about a positive outcome of the negotiation and De Castro himself will hold a press conference at 1pm.

All the three institutions involved in the trilogue agreed on taking advantage of this window of opportunity for approving a legislative act to protect farmers that the European Parliament has been calling for more than a decade.

Considering the time for the legal-linguistic revision and for the adoption both at the Parliament and at the Council, the proposed rules could not be formally approved before the end of the current legislative term if negotiators again postpone agreement.

Unfair trade practices bill faces last chance next week, warns De Castro

Next week’s European Parliament vote on the proposed unfair trade practices (UTPs) directive is crucial as there will be no time to pass the bill in this legislature in the event of a non-approval, the MEP piloting the file has warned.

 

Threshold and UTPs list

The proposal of the Commission provided that the new legislation applies to companies with a maximum annual turnover of €50 million. Council shared this approach in order to not extend the scope of the directive to multinational companies, keeping it limited to farmers and retailers.

However, Parliament approved in October a mandate that did not set any threshold, on the ground that the scope should be expanded to all operators as “unfair is unfair for all”.

A possible compromise could be reached setting a new limit.

The other pending issue is about the number of unfair trade practices to be banned in Europe. The Commission presented 8 UTPs, while in the Parliament’s mandate there were 58.

A source close to the file expects that the final number of practices will be around 15, close to the current British model of unfair trade practices.

Supporter

FoodDrinkEurope

FoodDrinkEurope is the organisation of Europe’s food and drink industry. Our supply and manufacturing chains are largely integrated across the EU, whether for small or large businesses, and so is the intra-EU trade. The free circulation of goods guaranteed by the Single Market is essential to a competitive food industry, to uphold its 4.2 million jobs and its growth ambition.

www.fooddrinkeurope.eu


For a Single Market with a purpose

For a Single Market with a purpose

The EU food and drink industry, the largest manufacturing sector in terms of turnover, value added and employment, is a strong advocate for a real Single Market. To that end, FoodDrinkEurope calls for:

  • High-level political commitment towards the Single Market, leading to a long-term vision
  • Prioritisation of Single Market issues at EU level focusing on a strong, competitive and sustainable supply chain
  • High-level coordination to ensure a relevant regulatory framework to support European industry
  • Improved functioning of mutual recognition in the non-harmonised areas

Read our Manifesto and find out more.


Industry working with farmers

The food and drink industry builds long-term partnerships with Europe’s farmers to secure a local agricultural supply, creates value and develops market opportunities for agricultural products and connects farmers and consumers in the food chain.

Find out more in our latest report.


Brexit

FoodDrinkEurope aims to play an active role in the Brexit process. Our goal is to ensure the least disruptive outcome for the food and drink sector at large.

Click here to read FoodDrinkEurope's recommendations on the Brexit negotiations.


"Small Scale, Big Impact": Europe"s food and drink SMEs

Out of 289,000 food and drink companies in Europe, 9 in 10 are SMEs. They are present in every region and stand for both tradition and innovation in our industry. They are also at the heart of the Single Market. They may be small in scale, but they are big in impact. They may be small in scale, but they are big in impact.

They may be small in scale, but they are big in impact.

Each of them has a story to tell…


Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.