In anticipation of Brexit, the United States has outlined its objectives for a trade agreement with the UK. Among other things, it wants to see access for its agriculture to the UK market. But US agriculture includes products such as chlorinated chicken, banned in the EU. Will the UK let these chickens in, if it “takes back control” and can make its own trade agreements?
For the US, the EU ban on chlorinated chicken is seen as a protectionist measure rather than a health protection measure. The US ambassador to the UK in an angry article in the British newspaper “Daily Telegraph” has attacked the EU approach : “Inflammatory and misleading terms like ‘chlorinated chicken’ and ‘hormone beef’ are deployed to cast American farming in the worst possible light…..It is time the myths are called out for what they really are: a smear campaign from people with their own protectionist agenda.” Even a moderate US journal such as “The Atlantic” states that “The European Union banned antimicrobial baths in 1997. That ban created a protected market for European and British chicken producers.”
In fact, the picture is a good deal more nuanced. In production terms, the EU is self-sufficient in poultry meat: from 2009 onwards production has always exceeded consumption. But the EU imports lots of chicken from other parts of the world, and exports a lot also. It imports chicken from Brazil, Thailand, the Ukraine, among others, to a total of 786 thousand tonnes in 2018, which is about 5.3 per cent of EU production, and it exports chicken to Ukraine, Philippines, Ghana, China (Hong Kong) and others, to a total of 12 per cent of EU production.
Looking at these other countries, the UN trade statistics tell us that the EU and the US are both selling them chicken in increasing amounts. Quite frequently, the EU is selling more. The EU outsold the US in Ghana (2015-2017), Japan (2014-2016), South Africa and Ukraine (2014-2017). Only in Hong Kong and the Philippines is the EU clearly behind the US, with sales at 56 per cent and 69 per cent of the US total in 2017. It’s also interesting that the EU chicken sometimes does quite well in price terms also, with the average price per kilo higher than that for the US product in the Hong Kong, Japanese, and South African markets in 2016 and 2017.
So, in third countries, where the EU and US are head-to-head, the EU chicken seems rather competitive. Which means that if the EU really were protectionist, it wouldn’t need to be.