Progress in hormone treated beef dispute

There appears to be a way forward in the longstanding trade dispute between the U.S. and European Union over cattle that have been given growth promotants, according to the U.S. Trade Representatives Office. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Economist Gregg Doud says the EU still will take only hormone-free beef, but they’ll take more of it with no duty.

“What has changed is that since 2003, the E.U., instead of being historically one of the largest net exporters of beef in the world, is now one of the largest net importers of beef in the world,” Doud told Brownfield Wednesday from his office in Washington, D.C. “They need the beef.”

The EU currently allows 11,500 metric tons of hormone-free beef per year with a 20 percent duty. The agreement will allow an additional 20,000 metric tons of hormone-free U.S. beef duty-free. In three years that increases to 45,000 metric tons annually duty-free.

As a result of the EU ban on hormone treated beef, the U.S. has been imposing $116.8 million in retaliatory sanctions on various European goods since 1999.

Under the agreement, the United States will maintain existing sanctions, but will not impose new sanctions on EU products during the initial three-year period. The U.S. is to eliminate all sanctions during the fourth year.

According to the agreement, the two sides will refrain from further litigation at the World Trade Organization regarding the EU’s ban on beef treated with certain growth-promoting hormones for at least 18 months. Before the end of the four-year period, the two sides are to seek to conclude a longer-term agreement.

Doud says most Europeans haven’t even had U.S. beef since the early 80s. “So let’s begin the process again by getting some product in the marketplace and beginning to build the level of trust to help people realize what this is all about,” he said.

The U.S. currently has 4 processing plants qualified to ship beef to the EU. Doud hopes the latest EU trade accommodation will encourage more plants to qualify.

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