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Thursday 22 February 2018

Game of chicken with US as UK reignites chlorinated meat debate

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Stock Photo

Sarah Collins

Chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated beef and Spanish olives are adding to EU-US trade tensions.

Transatlantic trade relations have frayed most recently over Russia sanctions that catch EU energy companies in their net, a national security review on the US steel sector and the recent executive order calling out US trade deficits with Ireland and other EU states.

A slew of concerns over agri-food products is adding to the noise, with the UK reigniting a long-running debate over chlorinated chicken. UK trade secretary Liam Fox said last week on a trade mission to the US that he would consider allowing in imports of chlorine-washed chicken under a post-Brexit trade deal with the Americans.

The practice is banned in the EU, though the bloc's food safety agency says there are no safety concerns with it. However, the prospect alarmed the EU, which has had to routinely reassure consumers that new EU trade deals will not dilute its food standards.

The game of chicken follows last year's revival of a decades-long dispute between the two sides over the bloc's ban on US hormone-treated beef.

The outgoing Obama administration threatened to reinstate tariffs on EU food products if Brussels does not reverse the ban. The EU says it will never allow hormone-treated beef to enter the bloc.

Under a 2009 World Trade Organization dispute settlement deal, the EU was forced to allow in imports of small quantities of US beef that are certified as hormone-free. But the quota is not being filled by the US, according to EU officials, but used instead by Australian and other producers.

US officials were in Brussels earlier this month for talks on the WTO deal, though no progress was made on the ban.

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"The EU is committed to keep its high food safety and health standards," said a Commission spokesperson. "Changing the EU's ban on hormone-treated beef has never been part of any negotiations or discussions held with the US."

The Commission is also intervening in a US investigation into Spanish black olives, following complaints from California-based olive producers that EU-subsidised producers in Spain are undercutting them. European farm federation Copa-Cogeca called the US move "protectionist".


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