Non-Tariff Measures and Sustainable Development: The Case of the European Union Import Ban on Seafood from Sri Lanka



K.P.G.L. Sandaruwan and Senal A. Weerasooriya | Asia-Pacific Research and Training Network on Trade

Ocean fauna is a common natural resource for the entire world as the oceans connect with each other and sea creatures’ move all around the world disregarding man-made geopolitical boundaries. Because of that, ensuring sustainable use of seafood resources is critical for the entire world. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a great threat to sustainable use of fishing resources. To eliminate the destructive fishing practices, whole value chain of fish trade should be well regulated. Trade-related policy measures have potential in contributing towards eliminating unsustainable fishing practices. The technical barriers to trade (TBT) are one of prominently applied non-tariff measures (NTMs) to regulate a sustainable production process. The European Union intensively works to block their fish market for seafood produced under IUU fishing practices. In one such case, the European Union temporarily banned all seafood imports from Sri Lanka until it addressed its persistent shortcomings to effectively regulate IUU fishing of its seafood industry. The study examines the effect of this ban in a holistic manner, tracing its effects along multiple dimensions of sustainable development.

Globally, NTMs are increasingly used to protect the consumers, encourage the adjustment of production and influence trade processes to ensure compliance with human rights and environment safeguards. However, some of the changes have triggered strong suspicions that food safety standards are being used as a non-transparent, trade impeding protectionist tools (Athukorala and Jayasuriya, 2003). The changes of tariffs and NTMs in a country can create negative and positive spillover effects on sustainable development. Policymakers may face difficult choices in reconciling domestic with the international objectives, and the short-term economic gains with longer-term sustainable development (OECD, 2016). There is growing demand for the evidence-based research on the impacts of NTMs, which can help stakeholders identify and maximise synergies, while mitigating trade-offs of sustainable development.

According to the FAO (2018a), the fish and fishery products are one of the most-traded segments of the world food sector where the value of global fish exports totalled $152 billion in 2017. FAO estimates that approximately two thirds of seafood products are exposed to international competition, that is, producers have to face competition from imports, or domestic consumers have to pay a higher price due to domestic producers exporting seafood to consumers abroad (FAO, 2018a). Value of fish trade has been increasing over the period between 2000 and 2017. The seafood industry is further important due to the following factors related to the sustainable development. First, in terms of the alleviation of poverty and hunger, fish can potentially be vital, as developing countries export 54% of fish and related product. Second, in terms of employment, since the employment in the fishing sector is relatively low-skilled, it is in many ways an occupation of last resort for poor communities. Finally, in terms of food security, fish sources provide the highest share of animal protein in the diet of poor communities (FAO, 2018b).

Non-tariff measures EU and Sri Lanka


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