28 Sep 2022

Leather will not be exempt from proposed restrictions on importing products potentially linked to deforestation into the European Union, reports Leatherbiz.

A plenary session if the European Parliament in Strasbourg in mid-September considered a series of proposed amendments to the legislative proposals. One of these asked for the exclusion of hides, skins and leather from any new restrictions, but while 277 members of the European Parliament voted in favour of an exemption for leather, 338 voted against it.

The leather industry’s representative body in the European Union, COTANCE, has reacted with dismay to the result of the vote, although it pointed out that late changes to the proposals could still emerge from talks behind closed doors involving the European Parliament, the Commission and the EU Council to finalise legislation. These talks will happen before the end of this year. In a statement, COTANCE said it still hoped one of the European institutions would stand up for leather.

For now, though, it said the September vote was “a low blow”. It added: “Leather cannot be considered as a driver of deforestation. It is scientifically demonstrated that demand for leather does not drive livestock production or slaughter. Leather is a recycling success story and a front-runner in the circular economy.”

It also said many members of the European Parliament who had voted against an exemption for leather had done so as a result of “falling into the trap of a well-orchestrated lobbying campaign by radical activist organisations, which peddled lies and misinformation, targeting leather specifically.”

In the statement, COTANCE said the new proposed legislation would make a further impact on the open market for raw materials for leather, a market it said was “already heavily distorted” by export restrictions that apply to around 60% of the hides and skins that are available globally.

“The effect on raw material and leather prices are likely to be devastating,” it claimed, adding that this was something the European Commission had not looked into in its impact assessments.

It went on to say that the proposed legislation will give leather producers outside the European Union an advantage because consumer products made with leather from “deforestation-risk countries” will not have to comply with new due diligence requirements.

“The EU is simply strengthening competitors and value addition in third countries, pushing the EU industry to relocate abroad,” the statement said, “and putting at risk up to 450.000 jobs in the European leather value chain.”

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