EU, U.S. near end to beef impasse
EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have agreed in principle on a way forward in the long-running dispute over hormone-treated beef, according to a statement from the European Union Wednesday.
Under terms of the proposed agreement, the United States would agree not to impose new so-called 'Carousel' sanctions, which were due to come into force this week and would affect a range of EU products including Italian mineral water, Roquefort cheese and a number of other food products.
The United States would maintain the currently reduced level of existing sanctions against EU products and would eliminate all sanctions beginning in the fourth year of the agreement. In return, the agreement would provide additional duty-free access to the EU market for the type of high quality beef traditionally exported by the United States and produced from cattle that have not been treated with growth-promoting hormones.
The agreement would provide additional duty-free access for 20,000 tons of beef in the first three years, increasing to 45,000 tons beginning in the fourth year. Before the end of the four-year period, the two sides will seek to agree on the conditions for the settlement applicable beyond that period.
'Following a very good discussion today, we have reached an understanding that provides a pragmatic way forward in the long-running beef dispute,' the two trade officials said in a joint statement.
'An agreement is in our mutual interest, and we will now discuss this with our respective stakeholders and constituencies in an effort to finalize it as soon as possible. Reaching an agreement on this issue will be a clear sign of our commitment to working through — and, where possible, resolving — the bilateral disputes in our trade relationship. We will continue our close cooperation on other outstanding issues in the future.'
The EU has had a ban on hormone-treated beef since the early 1980s, a ban that the United States and Canada challenged through the WTO in 1996. A WTO appellate body sided with the North American countries and allowed it to impose sanctions, in the form of tariffs, of 116.8 million euros. A reinforcement of the EU ban in 2003 brought more acrimony, with the EU challenging the sanctions.
Since December, the two sides have been meeting to remedy the dispute.