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United States and European Union Reach Provisional Agreement in Long-Running Beef Dispute

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

(American Meat Institute)

The United States and the European Union (EU) today reached a provisional agreement in the long-running dispute over beef trade. The agreement in principle would provide additional duty-free access to the EU market for high-quality beef produced from cattle that have not been treated with growth-promoting hormones – 20,000 tons in the first three years and increasing to 45,000 tons beginning in the fourth year. 

Under the agreement, the United States will maintain existing sanctions and will not impose new sanctions on EU products during the initial three-year period, and will eliminate all sanctions during the fourth year.  The two sides will refrain from further litigation at the World Trade Organization regarding the EU’s ban on beef treated with certain growth-promoting hormones for at least 18 months.  Before the end of the four-year period, the two sides will seek to conclude a longer-term agreement.

“The provisional agreement reached today between the United States and the European Union ─ while only an agreement in principle ─ is an encouraging positive step towards restoration of beef trade between the U.S. and EU,” said AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle. “Given the support in the U.S. and the EU to find a workable solution, we hope that the member states will approve this agreement.  Restoration of beef trade between the U.S. and the EU is long overdue. While this is only a first step, we are hopeful that it is represents movement in ending the trade friction that has existed for so long.  We hope that this initial opening will lead to a larger and fuller restoration of beef trade in the future.  AMI recognizes the hard work and long hours of negotiating undertaken by the offices of U.S. Trade Representative and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and commends them for the positive momentum on this issue. ”

The beef hormone dispute dates back to the late 1980s, when the EU banned beef from cattle raised with artificial growth hormones, a common industry practice in the United States and Canada. In 1998, the WTO found that the EU’s ban on U.S. beef was not supported by science and was thus inconsistent with WTO rules.  When the EU failed to bring its ban into compliance with its WTO obligations, the WTO authorized the United States to take retaliatory trade measures with an annual trade value of $116.8 million.  In July 1999, the United States imposed additional duties on a list of EU products in accordance with the WTO authorization.  That list remained unchanged until the modifications were announced on January 15, 2009. 

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