European Commission proposes formal talks with US on beef market

EPA / MARK SCHIEFELBEIN

Attendees wearing cowboy hats are silhouetted as they wait for the start of an event to celebrate the re-introduction of US beef imports to China in Beijing, China, 30 June 2017.

European Commission proposes formal talks with US on beef market


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The European Commission has proposed opening formal talks with the United States in order to address President Donald J. Trump’s repeated accusations that American farmers are not getting a fair share of the EU’s beef market.

The EU executive will ask European Council for a mandate to discuss with Washington a review of the existing quota to import hormone-free beef into the EU. Brussels has said that it “remains committed to delivering on the spirit of a Joint Statement” from July 25 by Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Trump “to launch a new phase in the trade relationship between the European Union and the United States”.

According to the EU, both sides should step up their efforts to work on all “outstanding trade issues”.

Brussels has said that further negotiations with other supplying countries may be needed to ensure that any change to the rate quota with the United States is in line with their existing rights under the World Trade Organization and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade Agreements.

Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner for Agriculture,  suggested that by requesting a mandate from the Council, the Commission will deliver on an initiative from earlier this year that aimed to address certain concerns raised by the United States regarding the overall functionality of the quota based on a mutually satisfactory solution that is fully in line with WTO rules.

According to Hogan, this new initiative will contribute to an easing of tensions with Trump’s protectionist White House, while at the same time reassuring European producers that the existing beef quota under the 2009 EU-US Memorandum of Understanding will remain unchanged.

“I want also to reassure our consumers that the said quota will continue to cover only products complying with Europe’s high food safety and health standards, in this case only non-hormone treated beef,” said Hogan.

The 2009 EU-US MOU, which was later revised in 2014, provided for an interim solution to a longstanding WTO dispute regarding the use of certain growth-promoting hormones in beef production. Under the agreement, a 45,000-tonne quota of non-hormone produced beef is allowed by the EU to qualifying suppliers.

A formal review of the MOU was already scheduled to take place, according to a revision devised under former US President Barack Obama in 2016.

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