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Czech parliament votes to reject quota on imported food in supermarkets

Czech parliament votes to reject quota on imported food in supermarkets
Photo: AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Czech lawmakers have rejected plans to require supermarkets to sell mainly domestically produced food, removing the measure from a bill on food quality to avoid clashes with the European Commission over EU single market rules, reports European Supermarket Magazine.

Parliament’s lower house approved a Senate version of a Food Act bill that included an amendment abolishing quotas, which had been placed in the legislation when lawmakers first voted in January. The overall bill is aimed at preventing double standards in food, an issue that some formerly communist eastern members of the European Union have pursued for years, contending that inferior food products unwanted by consumers in richer Western EU states were being sold in poorer Eastern markets.

Most lawmakers voted to remove the quotas on Tuesday after backlash from other European Union members. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis also voiced opposition after its surprise passage in January. One of the Czech Republic’s largest food producers is Agrofert, a conglomerate that includes farming, chemicals, food processing and media firms that was owned by Babis until he placed it into trust funds in 2017.

The quotas would have forced shops larger than 400 square metres to offer at least 55% of items that can be locally produced, like fruit, vegetables, milk or meat. The quotas’ rejection was welcomed by business groups like the Czech Confederation of Commerce, which had argued it would work against competitiveness in shops.

Opponents also argued they would give windfall profits to large domestic producers, raise prices, cause shortages and violate EU internal market rules, which could lead to sanctions. The Commission said in January local restrictions were counterproductive to the free movement of goods that ensures food security.

 

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EU and US conclude negotiations on agricultural quotas 

EU and US conclude negotiations on agricultural quotas 

 

The European Union and the United States have reached an agreement to adjust the European Union’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) agricultural quotas, following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is the culmination of two years of negotiations in the WTO framework to divide these EU quotas, with part of the volume remaining with the EU 27, and part going to the UK, based on recent trade flows. The agreement covers dozens of quotas and billions of euros of trade including for beef, poultry, rice, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and wines.

Commenting on the agreement reached in principle, Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciejowski said: “I am delighted we have reached agreement with our most important trade partner the US. This agreement – done inside the framework of the WTO – preserves the original volumes but shares them between the EU and the UK. It gives certainty and stability to agricultural trade and our markets. I am particularly pleased that this agreement marks the significance of our trade and economic relationship. This sends a good signal of our commitment to work together both bilaterally and in the WTO framework. I want to thank my team and our US colleagues for a job well done”.

The EU is conducting similar tariff rate quotas (TRQ) apportionment negotiations with twenty-one other partners having rights to access these quotas, and has concluded negotiations already with Argentina, Australia, Norway, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia and others.

Once the Commission has adopted the EU-US Agreement, it will then be sent to the Council and European Parliament for ratification, so that it can enter into force as soon as possible.