Former European Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan has backed high EU food production standards compared to other countries, citing that the drive for quality has resulted in billions of euros worth of food sales outside of the EU.

“The growing population and middle class is in Asia, and they want what Europeans have invested in over a period of time.

Europeans also want to supply these high quality goods, and that’s why we have a €57 billion surplus in recent times in terms of agri-food,” he told a symposium on the future of agriculture in Ghent last week.

“If every other sector in the European economy was doing as well in terms of the balance of trade, we wouldn’t have a flat European economy.

“For every €1bn of export in agri-trade it creates 14,000 jobs in the European Union – what would we do in every rural area if we didn’t have those export jobs?”

Hogan called out a number of examples to showcase the two-way trade deals that have been very successful, including the recent EU deals with Canada, Japan and Vietnam.

“For example, Japan has a very big position in the EU trade relationship. It’s the second largest trading partner for Europe following China, and it ranks seventh in terms for exports and imports of goods.

“So EU and Japan collectively are responsible for 25% of global GDP and the trade relationship is characterised by distinctive categories – exports totalled €8.3bn while imports from Japan into the EU topped €492m, so we had a surplus of €7.8bn with Japan on agri-food.”

Hogan quipped, “so it’s not just motor cars, they [the Japanese] eat as well, and they eat high quality European foods – so the primary categories are pigmeat, tobacco, cigars, wine, dairy, products, and cereals products.”


Hogan was challenged from the audience by a representatives of EU poultry producers and vegetable growers. Both suggested that their sectors were hung out to dry in recent trade deals.

Elisabeth Lacoste of the European beet growers association said that standards and rising standards were making EU produce uncompetitive.

Hogan responded, suggesting there needs to be common ground and viable incomes, with farmers in the centre of everything.

He said EU member states had some control over taxes they were putting on goods over and above what the EU wanted or initiatives, such as a ban on pesticides, which was compounding the situation.