Last Wednesday, the European Parliament voted ‘yes’ to the EU-Japan free trade agreement (or
Economic Partnership Agreement). It also agreed to a closely related strategic partnership agreement
with Japan. This marked the end of our campaign to use these trade talks to get better protection for
whales from the harpoons of Japanese whalers.
Our aim was to get the EU to use the trade negotiations as a powerful tool to put pressure on Japan to
stop its whaling and with your help we achieved a lot. We made ourselves heard within the EU and
especially the European Parliament, which is supposed to be the ‘voice of the European people’.
I blogged about our campaign last week and reflected on everything we did together – have a read, we
might not have stopped the deal going through (that was always a long-shot!) but we did achieve some
significant successes and put Japan’s whaling activities firmly on the table for these talks. I want to pass
on my thanks to everyone who supported us – we couldn’t have achieved any of it without you!
However, despite a lot of very heartening support from MEPs from different parties, who spoke out
against the agreement and for a better protection of whales, this voice of the European people failed
when it came to choosing whale welfare and conversation over a billion pound trade deal as 152 MEPs
voted against the agreement but 474 MEPs gave their consent.
I was grateful to see the Co-President of the Greens ask for a postponement of the vote in order to have
time to strengthen environmental protections in the agreement but unfortunately, his appeal was not
Not an ideal outcome, but we have some new opportunities…
It is possible that this free trade agreement will give the EU a new chance to push hard for Japan’s whale
hunts to end. The agreement contains a chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development, which calls on
the parties to the agreement to ‘effectively implement in its laws, regulations and practices the
multilateral environmental agreements to which it is party.’ In other words, it expects both parties (Japan
and the EU) to abide by international regulations. As we are all well aware, Japan has been found to be in
violation of the International Whaling Commission (IWC – the body that regulates whaling) and the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The EU can now use this trade
agreement to remind Japan of its obligations and even call for sanctions as a last resort if Japan
continues to flaunt its international responsibilities.
As I mentioned earlier, the EU also entered into a Strategic Partnership Agreement with Japan. This
allows the EU and Japan to cooperate on areas such as energy, education, environmental matters and
climate change. The EU Parliament used this opportunity to call for an end to Japan’s whaling and trade
in whale products.
The deal has been signed but because of the immense support we have received from WDC supporters
and EU representatives over the last two years of our campaign, it doesn’t feel like all is gloom and
doom. To say it with a line from Galaxy Quest, ‘Never give up, never surrender!’ Yes, one door closed
but that won’t stop us looking for an open one. I’m looking ahead to the possibilities this new
partnership between the EU and Japan might present to us.
We’ll keep fighting for an end to the cruelty that is industrial whaling – we owe it to the whales.
I am hoping that we will continue to have your support and your voice to make the oceans safer for whales and dolphins.
If you are able to make a donation to help fund this important work, I’d be very grateful, thank you.