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Knowledge Centre for Biodiversity

We enhance the knowledge base, facilitate its sharing and foster cross-sectorial policy dialogue for EU policy making in biodiversity and related fields.

Page | Last updated: 07 Dec 2022

EU policies on biodiversity and trade

Last updated: 09/12/2021

Currently, the EU mainly uses non-tariff measures both to protect its biodiversity from invasive and/or harmful species and to impede the commercialisation of the most endangered species. The problem of invasive alien species is treated in Regulation 1143/2014, which sets the rules to prevent their introduction and trade, and Implementing Regulation 2016/1141 and its subsequent updates, listing the species targeted by these rules. In parallel, without overlapping, Council Directive 2000/29/EC sets rules to avoid the introduction and spread of organisms harmful to plants or plant products. Concretely, measures to prevent the introduction of invasive or harmful species on EU territory consist of inspection of shipments at European borders.  

The approach to impede the commercialisation of the most endangered species consists of trade restrictions. These fall under the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, which mainly derive from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The set of core legislation includes Regulation (EC) No 338/97 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein (the Basic Regulation), complemented by its implementing regulations (Regulation (EC) No 865/2006, Implementing Regulation (EU) No 792/2012 and their subsequent amendments, and a Suspension Regulation).

The need for EU policies to further contribute to the ecological transition has been highlighted in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Farm to Fork Strategy, two strategies at the heart of the European Green Deal.  

Specifically, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 foresees that the European Commission will:

  • ensure full implementation and enforcement of the biodiversity provisions in all trade agreements
  • better assess the impact of trade agreements on biodiversity, with follow-up action to strengthen the biodiversity provisions of existing and new agreements if relevant
  • present in 2021 a legislative proposal and other measures to avoid or minimise the placing of products associated with deforestation or forest degradation on the EU market, and to promote forest-friendly imports and value chains
  • take a number of steps to crack down on illegal wildlife trade
  • continue to engage with partner countries to ensure a smooth and fair transition, mobilising in particular Aid for Trade to ensure that partners reap the benefits of biodiversity-friendly trade.

The Farm to Fork Strategy further foresees that the EU will support the global transition to sustainable agri-food systems. Through its external policies, including international cooperation and trade policy, the EU will pursue the development of Green Alliances on sustainable food systems with its partners in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora. Specifically, the EU will:

  • encourage the production of agri-food products complying with high safety and sustainability standards, and will support small-scale farmers in meeting these standards and in accessing markets
  • foster international cooperation on food research and innovation, with reference to (among others) the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

These commitments are fully coherent with the new Trade Strategy adopted by the European Commission in February 2021, which places sustainability at its heart and strengthens the capacity of trade to support the green transition, notably through further liberalisation of trade in sustainable goods and services and the promotion of sustainable and responsible global value chains.  

Some concrete actions have already been taken at EU level to foster the role of trade policy and related external policies in mitigating biodiversity loss. To help better assess the impact of EU free trade agreements (FTAs), the European Commission published in May 2021 a new methodology for assessing the impacts of trade liberalisation on biodiversity. To reduce the imprint of EU consumption on global biodiversity and increase demand for sustainable products, the Commission presented in November 2021 a legislative proposal on the making available on the Union market as well as export from the Union of certain commodities and products associated with deforestation and forest degradation. EU legislators have reached an agreement on the new regulation, which will cover commodities such as coffee, cocoa, palm oil, cattle, timber, soya, rubber, and a range of products that are made using them. It will require companies to produce a due diligence statement showing that their supply chains are not contributing to the destruction of forests. In that spirit, the European Commission has also launched a sustainable cocoa initiative aiming to deliver concrete recommendations to advance environmental, economic and social sustainability considerations across the cocoa supply chain, through collective action and partnerships between the two main cocoa producing countries (Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana), the European Parliament, EU Member States, cocoa growers and civil society.