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Independent.ie

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Hormone-treated beef set to be a flashpoint between EU and US

The Trump presidency will strengthen the US trade department’s demand for an end to the EU’s longstanding ban on US beef imports
The Trump presidency will strengthen the US trade department’s demand for an end to the EU’s longstanding ban on US beef imports
Andrea Leadsom

Sarah Collins

Beef has become an unlikely first flashpoint between the EU and US, following the election of Donald Trump as president.

The EU has hit back at US threats to slap tariffs on European products in a row over hormone-treated beef.

An EU spokesperson said the move - threatened by the US trade office just before Christmas - would mark "a most unfortunate step backwards" in transatlantic relations.

The US is Ireland's single biggest export partner and any action could affect Irish exports to the country, including pharmaceuticals, chemicals, drinks or medical instruments.

The row stems from a long-standing EU ban on hormone-treated beef from the US.

The ban has been in place for around 20 years, and led the US to sue the EU at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

That case resulted in a 2009 deal with the EU agreeing to a hormone-free beef quota of 62,660 tonnes in carcass weight equivalent.

But the US says that agreement is not working as it should. "The EU's ban on US beef is not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers, and producers," the US trade department said in December.

"The EU has failed to live up to assurances to address this issue, and it's now time to take action," it said in a written statement.

The US had hoped to find wiggle room on the quota during talks on a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), which began three years ago but were put on ice following the US election.

But the EU was never going to budge on hormone-treated beef during the TTIP talks.

"The EU is committed to keeping its high food safety and health standards. Only products complying with these standards will be allowed into the EU market," a European Commission spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said the EU "has fully complied, both in letter and in spirit" with the WTO deal and will continue to apply it.

Relations

"The termination of this agreement and the possible application of duties on EU exports to the US would certainly constitute a most unfortunate step backwards in the strong EU-US trade relations," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the EU "stands ready to listen to any concern" the US may have.

On the request of the US beef industry, the US trade office announced in December that it would hold a public hearing and seek public comments on the issue.

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