EU settles old dispute with US over hormone-free beef

The European Union welcomed Friday to have settled an old dispute with Washington around beef with hormones, by reserving part of its import quota for “high quality” beef from the United States.

Goodwill sign

This agreement in principle is for the EU a sign of goodwill towards US President Donald Trump, a way of “reaffirming its commitment to initiate a new phase in relations with the United States”, underlines the European Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, quoted in a press release. “With the success of these negotiations, the Commission has kept its promises on a very important subject with a major trading partner, with whom we are engaged in broader trade discussions,” says Hogan.

The deal, negotiated on behalf of the 28 by the Commission with the US and major foreign beef suppliers, provides for up to 35,000 tonnes of the quota to be set aside for the US – but for “high quality” meat. , that is, without hormones. This allocation will take shape gradually, over seven years, starting with 18,500 tonnes in the first year, a source told the Commission. The rest of the quota will be left to the other countries which export to the EU: Uruguay, Australia and Argentina.

Disgruntled meat professionals

The French beef industry has protested against this agreement. The livestock and meat inter-profession Interbev thus underlines in a press release that “the Commission is once again sacrificing the climate, the beef industry and the health of consumers for the benefit of trade”. The National Bovine Federation (FNB) denounces for its part an agreement which “does not respect the position of France”. Indeed, this “comes less than two months after the clearly expressed refusal by Emmanuel Macron to conduct any trade negotiations with the United States … and the requirement, by France, to exclude at least any agricultural commodity. of these negotiations “, recalls the FNB in ​​a press release.

The feud over hormone beef dates back to 1988, when Europe banned the import of beef from animals that had been given growth hormones. In retaliation, and in accordance with a WTO decision, the United States had imposed customs sanctions on certain local products in 1999, notably provoking strong protests in France and the “dismantling” of a McDonald’s restaurant in Millau , in the southwest.

Under a compromise in 2009 (amended in 2014), the United States finally lifted its sanctions and the EU opened an import quota for “high quality” foreign beef, including American beef, while maintaining its veto on hormone beef. But this quota was mainly used by other beef producing countries, which led the Obama administration to threaten the EU in late 2016 to reinstate the 1999 tariffs.

The renegotiation of this memorandum allows the United States to be guaranteed a share of the quota. Phil Hogan also assured that the agreement will “not change the total volume, quality or safety of beef imported into the EU, which will remain in accordance with high standards in Europe.”

(With AFP)