Economic protectionism hits Polish food exporters. The Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia are setting the greatest barriers

2018-04-24  |  05:55
Says:Andrzej Gantner
Function:General Director
Company:The Polish Federation of Food Industry
  • MP4
  • Almost 80 percent of Polish agri-food products are exported to the European Union. Exports are negatively affected by the growing phenomenon of protectionism, which covers such measures as numerous sanitary inspections, negative media campaigns and additional certification requirements. More or less 30 percent of goods exported to countries which create barriers are discriminated against. As shown by the report developed within the Single Europe Varied Food programme, the European Commission is able to combat protectionism more effectively thanks to changes in procedures.

     “The EU market is the major exports market for Polish food producers. Its value in 2017 was EUR 21 bn, as compared to EUR 27 bn for international Polish food exports. It is therefore important for the EU market not to create any non-tariff barriers or protectionist phenomena on the EU market, because all events on the EU market have a huge impact on Polish food producers,” Andrzej Gantner, General Director of the Polish Federation of Food Industry, told the Newseria Biznes news agency.

    The major barriers include more frequent sanitary inspections, extended document storage times, additional certification requirements, short validity periods for permits and the compulsory placement of specific marking on products. According to Polish exporters, the greatest barriers are set by the Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. More than 30 percent of products exported to countries which create such barriers are discriminated against.

     “The protectionist barriers have caused the Czech Republic to drop from the third position among Polish food importers to the fifth. This is both because of the negative PR and specific solutions related to official food control, introducing imprecise product quality criteria and websites using quality criteria which are not applied in the EU. Such actions lead to a reduction of imports from a given country progressing year by year. Polish producers have fallen prey to such practices,” Gantner said.

    The report developed by the Dentons firm under the Single Europe Varied Food programme titled “Support for promoting Polish food through reducing export barriers” demonstrates that in December 2017 there were 674 cases open related to EU law violation by Member States. The average length of the first stage of proceedings, aimed at the quick resolution of the dispute) was 36.9 months, and of the second stage (court proceedings) – 22.4 months. The average waiting time for a resolution exceeds 5 years.

     “This means that a country introduces a barrier on its market and only after 5 years, based on the Commission's decision, the barrier may or may not be lifted. Everyone doing business knows that this is at least 4 years and 7 months too late, so we suggest introducing procedures that enable initial action to be taken within around three months,” Andrzej Gantner said.

    The report states that in order to effectively counteract protectionism it is necessary to introduce an expert procedure, i.e. a group of experts at the European Commission dealing with cases of EU treaty violations by Member States. This will reduce the burden on the EC and encourage Member States to settle disputes amicably.

    “The functioning of the basic EU food safety system (RASFF), which contributes to the high reputation of European food, also allows protectionist practices. Today companies can send notifications to the system against their market competitors. We definitely think this should not be the case,”  General Director of the Polish Federation of Food Industry argued.

    Proceedings before the EC may also facilitate reversal of the burden of proof – a Member State accused of applying unreasonable barriers will have to prove that the applied legal solutions are in line with EU law. Currently it is the European Commission which needs to prove that internal regulations do not comply with EU law.

    “We also place emphasis on the need to impose the necessary temporary measures. The barriers introduced by a given country should be suspended until the EC resolves the disputes; the barriers should not continue to apply and eliminate our producers from the market, to be lifted only after some time,”  General Director of the Polish Federation of Food Industry stated.

    Trade could also be streamlined with a platform for publishing domestic regulations with the planned changes in regulations referring to the introduction of specific groups of goods to Member States markets.

    “On the one hand, these are simple demands, but we are aware that EU law is highly complicated and the EC acts very slowly. However, taking into account the importance of the EU market and support we have received from the MEPs, we hope that with the support of the Polish Government the EC will consider these demands. If at least one of them is implemented, we will consider it a success,” Andrzej Gantner concluded.



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