The United States’ decision to lift its long-standing ban on EU beef imports is not a trade-off as part of the ongoing transatlantic free-trade talks, the European Commission has said.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that the US will re-open its market to exports of beef from the EU, starting with Ireland.
The US banned beef imports from the EU following the spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), mad cow disease, in Europe in the 1990s.
The re-opening of the US market will start with Ireland, the member state which according to the Commission provided about 70% of exports to the US when the ban was enforced.
But the lifting of the ban is not part of a secret trade-off in negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US, Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio said at a press conference on Monday (5 January).
“There has not been any trade-off. This is a recognition of all the measures that have been taken in Europe after the BSE crisis in the 1990s. It’s a step towards normal trade conditions, but it’s not part of any trade-off in the context of TTIP,” Brivio said.
Hormone-treated US beef has been banned in Europe since the trans-Atlantic beef wars first erupted in the late 1980s. European health NGOs and environment organisations have also raised concern that chlorinated chickens could soon be found on EU supermarket shelves. They say that regulatory harmonisation between the US and EU under TTIP would threaten consumer health by lowering barriers to entry for American food products.
The EU’s Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said in a joint statement that the re-opening of the market will re-establish normal trading conditions and abolish the disproportionate and unjustified US ban on beef.
“This announcement sends an important and positive signal to the other EU member states who have requested the US to re-establish access to the US beef market,” the commissioners said. “It is now desirable that the US acts expeditiously to extend the approval to the rest of the EU and to fully bring their import conditions in line with international standards.”