With American negotiators due in Brussels this week to restart talks on the planned EU-US trade deal, the European Commission is keen to clear away potential road-blocks to a large-scale agreement.
One of those is the hormone dispute, where Europe blocked imports of US-reared hormone-treated beef. While American retaliatory tariffs have been suspended since 2009, in return for EU duty-free import quotas for high-quality US beef currently at 45,000 tonnes (t) a year, a permanent solution has yet to be agreed.
And under the 2009 deal, designed to end the row, a temporary agreement, involving suspending the tariffs, expired on 1 August. Now Brussels and Washington have until 1 February 2014 to either extend this temporary deal, agree a permanent solution or see the import quotas disappear and the tariffs re-imposed.
A Commission proposal to try and head off this problem has been drafted. It said: “The termination of the MoU [memorandum of understanding] is not in the EU or US interest,” and proposed giving negotiators more time. It suggested that the EU and the US could extend the current agreement until August 2015, while discussing a permanent solution, which could involve Europe continuing to import 45,000t of high-quality American beef duty free.
Under the temporary deal, such beef has to come from heifers and steers less than 30 months of age, fed for at least 100 days before slaughter, with less than 62% concentrates and/or feed grain co-products with a metabolisable energy (ME) content greater than 12.26 megajoules (MJ) per one kilogramme of dry matter.