EU/US agreement on hormone-free beef imports welcomed

By Liz Newmark, in Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

EU/US agreement on hormone-free beef imports welcomed

Related tags: Beef

The European Commission’s agreement with the United States (US) that 35,000 tonnes (t) of a European Union (EU) 45,000t import quota for hormone-free beef will be allocated to the US, has been accepted by EU meat producers and welcomed by US exporters.

This American quota will be phased in over a seven-year period, with 18,500t allocated for year one and, once fully in force, the remaining 10,000t will be left available for all other exporters.

The 14 June agreement is based on an EU Council of Ministers mandate, concluded in 2009 and revised in 2014, to solve the longstanding dispute in the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the use of growth-promoting hormones in beef production.

Under this accord, the EU opened a 45,000t quota of non-hormone treated beef to qualifying suppliers, and while the idea was that it would be used by US exporters, in theory other countries’ exporters could use it if they fulfilled certain technical requirements, which they increasingly did. The US Government became upset and has pushed the EU for a clear allocation for American exporters.

EU agriculture and rural development commissioner Phil Hogan said the resulting agreement would not change the “overall volume, quality or safety of the imported beef”,​ which would still meet high European standards.

Moreover, a Commission official stressed to GlobalMeatNews​ that while the deal still needed formal approval from the EU Council of Ministers and European Parliament, this was expected and “we hope the agreement can be rubberstamped by the end of the year”.

EU farm body Copa-Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen, speaking to GlobalMeatNews​, welcomed that the overall size of the TRQ (tariff-rate quota) would remain unchanged, noting that the EU was also in bilateral negotiations with other countries benefiting from this agreement.

Also, any EU/US agreement on hormone-free beef imports must respect WTO-compliant controls that allowed the EU to insist that “exceptions for using any hormone preparation in hormone-free beef products are unacceptable​”, he said. As regards earmarking much of the quota for the USA, Pesonen maintained: “On a short- to medium term, the price of US beef is closer to the EU price” ​compared to many other exporters, which was welcome, given the EU beef market was “under a lot of pressure and faced many challenges, including ​[exports from] Mercosur and of course Brexit”.

Kent Bacus, senior director of international trade at the US National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) welcomed the news. He claimed that in recent years, “the EU has allocated a growing share of the beef import quota designed for US beef to other countries, eroding benefits for US producers”.

He told GlobalMeatNews​: “Additional access is a positive step forward for US cattle producers and NCBA greatly appreciates the USTR ​[United States Trade Representative] continuing to hold the EU and other trade partners accountable.”

However, he cautioned: “We know that US beef producers will not realise the benefits of this announcement until the agreement is finally implemented. We will continue to partner with the Trump Administration to tear down unjustified trade barriers around the world.”

Related topics: United States, EU, Industry & Markets, Beef

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