US threatens tariffs on EU products unless ban on beef imports is lifted

Pic Getty Images.
Pic Getty Images.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Obama Administration has announced it is taking action against what it calls the European Union’s (EU) unfair trade practices that it says discriminate against US beef imports. 

Acting on the request of the U.S. beef industry, the US has scheduled a public hearing and is seeking public comments in connection with the EU’s ban on most U.S. beef products. 

It says the EU’s ban on U.S. beef is not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers, and producers. 

If the trade action resumes, the United States would reinstate industry-supported tariffs on a list of EU products imported into the United States. 

"The WTO determined that the European Union's ban on US beef imports violates its international trade obligations," said Ambassador Froman.

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

The action holds the EU accountable and is an important step in encouraging the Commission to come back to the table to ensure that American ranchers have access to Europe's market and that European consumers have better access to high-quality US beef," he said


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In 1998, the EU lost a case at the WTO for banning American beef. In 2009, the U.S. negotiated an agreement to allow a modest degree of market access for specially-produced beef that meets the EU's standards, but it says that agreement has not worked as intended due to competition from non-US suppliers.

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

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

The U.S. beef industry exports an average $6 billion per year. These exports produce an estimated $7.6 billion in economic activity and support 50,000 jobs nationwide.

"American ranchers raise some of the best beef on the planet, but restrictive European Union policies continue to deny EU consumers access to US beef at affordable prices.

“For several years we have been asking the EU to fix an agreement that is clearly broken, despite its original promise to provide a favourable market for U.S. beef,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Food Standards

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed said recently that a number of key issues in regard arise in relation to US food standards and hormone treated.

“All of these arose in the recent negotiations with Canada for a Free Trade Agreement and were resolved, and I believe they will also be capable of being resolved in TTIP.

“We have made the point, and I am confident that it is shared by the European Commission and other Member States, that the principle of equivalence must continue to apply so that, even where food production processes in the EU and US are not identical, they will provide equivalent guarantees regarding the standards of production.

“This principle is already enshrined under the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture, and is also recognised by both sides as the basis for a TTIP agreement, he said.

Equally, he said it is important that both the EU and United States retain the policy space to restrict certain practices and processes on social and ethical grounds, and this is also recognised, in principle, by both sides.

For example, he said the EU Commission has made it clear that it will not allow the importation of hormone treated meat into the EU, and this is well understood by the US side

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