EU agrees deal to boost US beef imports

Ranchers sort cattle for early weaning.
Ranchers sort cattle for early weaning.

Philip Blenkinsop and Margaret Donnelly

The European Union has agreed a deal to allow US farmers a larger share of Europe's beef market.

The Commission today told Member States the outcome of the negotiations to review the functioning of an existing quota to import hormone-free beef into the EU.

Based on a Council mandate, the Commission reached an agreement in principle with the US and other substantial supplying countries that 35,000t of this quota will be allocated to the US, phased over a seven-year period, with the remaining amount left available for all other exporters.

Under the agreement, a 45,000t quota of non-hormone treated beef was open by the EU to qualifying suppliers, which included the US.

Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan said:"With the successful outcome of the negotiations, the Commission has delivered on a very important issue with a major trade partner with which we are engaged in broader trade talks.

"With this step, the European Union reaffirms its commitment to bring about a new phase in the relationship with the United States, in line with the agreement reached between Presidents Juncker and Trump in July 2018.

"I also want to reiterate that the agreement will not change the overall volume, quality or safety of the beef imported into the EU, which will remain in compliance with the high European standards."

In 2009, the EU and the US concluded a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), revised in 2014, which provided for an interim solution to a longstanding dispute in the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the use of certain growth-promoting hormones in beef production.

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Following the conclusion of this mutually satisfactory outcome in line with WTO rules, the Commission will submit legal proposals for the Council to authorise its signature and to conclude the agreement with the United States in the coming months, after seeking the consent of the European Parliament.

US farmers initially dominated the quota, but under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules it also had to be made available to non-US suppliers.

Australia and Uruguay, and more recently Argentina, have steadily increased their exports, pushing down the US share of the quota to about 30pc.

Australia has confirmed it reluctantly accepted the adjustment and EU diplomats said that Argentina and Uruguay had also accepted the change.

The EU is currently in free-trade negotiations with Australia and with South America's Mercosur trade bloc, of which Argentina and Uruguay are members. In both sets of talks, increased shipments of beef to Europe is a key demand.

Europe is also offering to start negotiations on a trade deal with the United States to remove import duties on industrial goods, though the two sides are stuck over the issue of market access for agriculture. Washington says it should be part of the talks but the EU is united in ruling it out.

The trade talks are part of an agreement struck last year between Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump, under which the United States agreed not to impose punitive tariffs on EU car imports while the two sides sought to improve transatlantic trade ties.

The beef issue is technically a separate matter.

However, with Trump now threatening to impose car tariffs from November and agriculture a clear sticking point, the beef deal would be a way for the European Union to show it is a clear trade ally.

Online Editors


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