Organic Consumers Association

Europe Makes US Hormone-Taint Beef Ban Permanent

Europe to Enshrine Beef And Ask U.S. to Lift Tariffs
WASHINGTON -- The European Union plans to announce Tuesday that it has taken all the necessary steps to permanently ban U.S. hormone-treated beef as a health threat and that the U.S. should lift $116 million in annual punitive tariffs imposed on European goods.
The announcement, which amounts to a declaration of victory in one of the EU's longest-running trade spats with Washington, comes as the U.S. and Europe are already at loggerheads over U.S. steel tariffs and an overseas tax break for U.S. companies, both of which have been found to violate international trade rules.
U.S. officials say they stand by the safety of U.S. beef and believe the ban will eventually be lifted. Another round of legal fights within the World Trade Organization now appears likely.
EU officials who spoke about Tuesday's move said recent scientific studies bear out the EU contention that hormone-treated beef poses a potential health risk. Recent regulatory moves within the 15-nation bloc, they said, also bring the EU into compliance with earlier WTO rulings against the beef ban. The WTO allows countries to ban products on health grounds so long as the ban is backed by an adequate risk assessment.
"I now call on the United States and Canada to lift their trade sanctions against the EU," Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner, said in a statement to be released Tuesday.
The U.S. and Canada filed suit against the EU beef ban in 1996 within the WTO, which ruled that the EU moratorium wasn't sufficiently rooted in science. When the EU refused to drop the ban, the U.S. and Canada slapped retaliatory tariffs in 1999 on European luxury products ranging from French cheese to Italian handbags. The EU then conducted more than a dozen studies on the alleged harmful effects of six types of hormones used to increase the growth rate in North American beef cattle. The EU studies, which the U.S. beef industry rejects, found that one of the hormones was a "proven carcinogen," while the others posed an undetermined risk to consumers.
With the studies and corresponding legislation completed, the EU believes it has lived up to its obligations within the WTO and can thus keep the beef ban in place. Tuesday's statement said the EU plans to "commence the appropriate procedures at the WTO" to get the U.S. and Canadian sanctions lifted.
Chandler Keys, a Washington lobbyist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said the EU ban was "pure protectionism" and had nothing to do with science. "We're going to keep fighting them on this," he said.

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