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“Thailand Should Get Same Deal With EU As Singapore” Spain, September 30, 13

The Spanish National Association of Canned Seafood Producers (Anfaco-Cecopesca) believes that the free trade agreement recently signed between the EU and Singapore should be the model also implemented in an EU deal with Thailand. After two years of negotiations, Singapore has been granted tariff advantages to the European market, but canned tuna has been excluded from the deal, and frozen pre-cooked loins were included.

Thailand is the leading canned tuna processing nation in the world, and in 2012 exported 46,543 tons of canned tuna to the EU. However, Europe does not import any canned tuna from Singapore, being a country without any canned tuna processing industry.

Anfaco secretary general, Juan Manual Vieites said: “We hope that this is the way forward in an agreement with Thailand.”

Last week, the Committee of Agriculture, Food and Environment of the Spanish House of Representatives called for discussions on whether canned tuna should be included or excluded from a trade agreement between Thailand and the EU. The European tuna sector is concerned that this will give the Asian country unfair competition in the industry.

Anfaco has regularly shown strong objections to canned tuna being included in such a deal, and has commonly accused the Thai tuna processing industry of poor labor conditions for workers as reasoning for its opposition of an agreement. Thailand’s tuna industry has strongly denied the allegations.

Spain feels the threat as the leading producer of canned tuna in the EU, accounting for around 80 percent of the European canned tuna production. A large proportion of its canned tuna is imported by mainly three EU member countries Italy, France, and Portugal. These three countries also have domestic tuna canneries competing against Spanish processors. The Spanish industry fears that the trade agreement would give the Thai industry unfair competition in the market; this is why Spain wants canned tuna excluded for the agreement.

However, Spain does want Thailand to obtain the possibility to export pre-cooked loins to Spanish canneries duty free without any limit on the quantities, since this helps the European processors to produce cheaply, making optimal use of low cost Thai labor.

Data released by the Spanish canning industry has indicated a 3.26 percent value growth in canned tuna exports from January-July this year, compared to the same period for 2012. Despite this, the seven month period year on year displayed an export volume decrease of 2.8 percent.

Vieites said that he believes that the increase in value of exports alongside a decrease of volume shows that the sector is holding profitability during a period of difficult economic environment.

Thailand has been lobbying for free trade on canned tuna with the EU since November 2012. Negotiations with the head of the European Commission, José Manual Barroso, started early this year.