Farm Ireland

Wednesday 13 December 2017

Irish beef on hitlist as US plans '100pc tax on goods coming from EU'

Stock Image: PA
Stock Image: PA
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Office of the US Trade Representative will hold a hearing in Washington tomorrow to discuss applying a tariff as high as 100pc on a host of EU products, including Irish beef.

It comes as newly elected US President Donald Trump's highly protectionist agenda looks to have already called time on a host of high-profile trade deals, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

One news outlet in the US has said the tariff could be as high as 100pc.

Documents seen by the Irish Independent ahead of the hearing, which will look at the possibility of imposing a tariff on certain imported products, including beef, called for submissions on the situation and received more than 11,500 responses prior to the deadline.

In a statement the Department of Agriculture said it is aware of this issue and is closely monitoring developments.

"The negotiations in this case are between the European Commission and the US Authorities and we are in close contact with the Commission as the case proceeds,” a Department spokesperson said.

Significant efforts have been made by successive Irish governments to export Irish beef into the US and in 2015 Irish beef was back on the menu in the US, with the first shipments arriving in time for St Patrick's Day.

At the time, the then-minister for agriculture Simon Coveney said the US market could be worth €100m a year to Irish beef exports.

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Now, the US says it is taking action against what it calls the EU's unfair trade practices, which it says discriminate against the US beef industry.

It says the EU's ban on hormone-treated US beef is not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers and producers. The US National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the US Meat Export Federation wrote to the Office of the US Trade Representative before Christmas calling for an end to tariff concessions on EU exports and said that the US domestic beef industry would benefit from such a move.

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

The EU bans the import of beef and beef products produced from animals to which any of six hormones have been administered for growth-promotion purposes in the US.

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.

Other EU products under consideration for the imposition of increased duties include Roquefort cheese, hair clippers and Vespa scooters.

The European Commission had argued that this issue should be resolved through TTIP.

However, given that European officials decided after their trade ministers' meeting in September not to complete TTIP this year, the US has decided that now is the time to take action.

The US beef industry exports an average $6bn per year. These exports produce an estimated $7.6bn in economic activity and support 50,000 jobs in the US.

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Irish Independent