The EU has, in an international perspective, high demands on production standards and in many places in Europe it is discussed if trade barriers should be allowed to protect goods produced in a manner that reflects the generally accepted values, so called societal concerns. The proponents of such trade barriers argue that policy measures protecting labor rights, the environment and animal welfare that lead to higher production costs for domestic producers cannot be sustained in an open market in the long run. Allowing this type of trade barriers is however difficult, especially because they can be used to protect domestic special interests.
In the report the concept of societal concerns and its links to international trade is analyzed. This is done through a literature review focusing on case studies on how standards affect production costs and through a statistical analysis of how trade flows are affected by the fact that production standards differ between countries.
The report shows that it is hard to justify that additional protection of EU chicken, pig meat and egg production is needed, based on the argument that domestic production is threaten by imports due to stricter regulations for animal welfare. Present animal welfare regulation has only a minor impact on competitiveness, and coming stricter regulations are not expected to affect production costs in a significant way for most EU producers. Further, there is no evidence that the introduction of the animal welfare regulations would lead to increased import volumes.