Commission proposes to redistribute beef quota to please the US

The EU bans imports of beef from cattle raised with growth hormones, a practice common in the US. In return, Brussels offered a quota for hormone free beef. [U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr]

The European Commission proposed on Monday (3 September) a redistribution of the existing quota for hormone-free beef in order to address longstanding demands from the US to increase its exports within the agreed limits.

The Commission requested a mandate to negotiate what portion of the existing quota could be allocated to Washington.

The EU executive would need to negotiate also with other supplier nations “to ensure that any agreed country allocation of the said tariff rate quota with the US respects their existing rights under the WTO/GATT agreements”, the mandate says.

The proposal represents a conciliatory gesture toward US President Donald Trump to ease the trade “tensions”, following his agreement with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last July, said Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan.

Soybeans bring appeasement to EU-US trade war

The EU’s pledge to import more soybeans from US farmers was the ‘dealmaker’ in the agreement between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Donald Trump to stop the dispute and open trade talks, EU sources told EURACTIV.

The Irish commissioner stressed that the outcome would not increase the existing non-hormone beef quota of 45,000 tonnes (around 0.6% of the total EU beef market) and would be WTO compatible.

Given its rejection of US’s use of hormones in beef production, Europe accepted in 2009 to open European markets to US hormone-free beef. But the quota was also open to other qualified suppliers.

The US complained that its non-hormone beef exports were squeezed by other countries, especially Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and to a lesser extent Canada and New Zealand.

US renews fight against EU ban on hormone-treated beef

The United States said Thursday (22 December) it was relaunching a trade fight against a European Union ban on imports of hormone-treated American beef, raising the possibility of imposing tariffs on European goods.

Washington requested in 2016 a review of the agreement (memorandum of understanding), and new contacts took place earlier this year.

“The European Commission is committed to making headway,” commission spokesperson Daniel Rosario said on Monday.

Rosario stressed that the mandate would not alter the EU’s consumer and health standards, in particular on the use of growth-promoting hormones in beef production.

He added that it would also respect the agreement reached between Trump and Juncker to exclude agricultural products from the ongoing trade talks.

“It is how the existing quota works,” he insisted.

EU extends deal on beef imports from US

The European Union will continue to import high-quality US beef from non-hormone-treated cattle at zero duty, extending an agreement for at least another two years, US authorities said on Thursday (1 August).

The Commission consulted with member states and farmers associations and the proposal did not raise any flags as long as it was WTO compatible and the quota was not exceeded.

But it remains to be seen how the Commission could allocate part of the quota to the US while ensuring that it remains open to all, as the WTO demands.

In order to avoid a new complaint to the WTO by affected suppliers, the Commission could use the free trade deals under negotiation with all the major beef exporters to find a solution.

The EU executive is in talks with the Mercosur bloc (which includes Argentina and Uruguay), Australia and New Zealand.

Prospect of higher Mercosur meat quotas angers French farmers

Meat imports were a significant obstacle in brokering the EU’s trade deal with Canada. Now, the same issue has cropped up in the ongoing Mercosur talks, infuriating French livestock farmers and politicians. EURACTIV France reports.

Canada already reached an agreement with the EU on this issue as part of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Beef was one of the most sensitive issues of the CETA negotiations. Following intense negotiations, the EU accepted 45,000 tons of hormone-free beef from Canada.

The concession helped to settle the dispute with Ottawa over the hormone-treated beef at the WTO.

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