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Monday, July 19, 1999 Published at 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK


Business: The Economy

US hits EU, spares UK in beef war

Where's the beef? If it's hormone-treated, not on EU dinner tables

The United States has published a list of EU products that will be hit by 100% punitive tariffs to retaliate for the European import ban on its hormone-treated beef.

World trade wars
Chocolate, pork, onions and truffles are among the goods on the $116.8m blacklist, but UK exporters escape the wrath from Washington. They are specifically excluded from the list because the London government consistently argued against the beef ban.

All the 14 other EU members will see some of their exporters hit, with France, Germany, Denmark and Italy singled out for particularly painful import duties.


US Special Trade Negotiator Peter Scher says the EU has to follow the WTOs ruling
The sanctions will come into effect on 29 July.

The European Union has banned the beef, because its scientists are worried that hormone-treated meat carries health risks, possibly causing cancer and triggering reproductive disorders in men.

US scientists and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute this.

The United States has already imposed 100% tariffs on European imports worth $194.2m in a dispute involving trade barriers imposed on US banana companies producing in South and Central America.

Legal sanctions

The trade sanctions had been approved by the WTO, which ruled that the EU ban had cost US farmers about $117m.

Canada was also given the right to retaliate, with damage to farmers estimated to be about $7m.

US officials and farmers representatives had originally demanded penalties worth more than $900m.

Reacting to the sanctions, Franz Fischler, the EU's Agriculture Commissioner, said: "My reaction to this is deep regret. I thought up to now that the US wanted to expand trade, not restrict it."

The European Union has repeatedly offered to compensate US farmers for their losses.

Acting EU Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan said that compensation would be "a more constructive approach than these sanctions".

However, this approach has been rejected by Washington. The US government believes that only punitive tariffs can force the EU to open its market to hormone-treated beef.

US Special Trade Negotiator Peter Scher said earlier this month that the move's "main objective" would be to "maximise our leverage over the EU".

According to US officials, the list now published is designed to inflict the most economic damage on France, Germany, Italy and Denmark, as they believe that those nations hold the key to overturning the beef ban.

Cancer worries

The European Union has blocked the import of beef treated with certain artificial and natural growth hormones, because of health worries.

The WTO, however, agrees with US scientists who say the beef is risk-free.

Many farmers in North America use a range of six artificial and natural growth hormones, that they implant in their cattle or add to their feed, to boost meat yields. The extra hormones make cattle grow muscle faster than untreated animals.

The dispute over beef imports has dragged on for more than a decade.

Selective targetting

From all EU countries, 14 will be hit by the beef war tariffs. Only the UK, which has argued in favour of lifting the ban, will be exempt.

Items from all 14 countries hit by tariffs

  • frozen and fresh meat from bovine animals
  • fresh, chilled or frozen pork carcasses and half-carcasses
  • fresh, chilled or frozen pork hams and shoulders, and cuts thereof
  • Roquefort cheese
  • onions
  • truffles
  • dried carrots
  • goose liver, prepared or preserved
  • rusks, toasted bread and similar toasted products
  • fruit juice, concentrated and non-concentrated
  • roasted chicory and other roasted coffee substitutes
  • prepared mustard

The US will also impose tariffs on

  • prepared or preserved tomatoes
    from France, Germany and Italy.

    Products specifically from France and Germany to face tariffs include

    • animal guts, bladders and stomachs (other than fish)
    • soups and broths
    • yarn (other than sewing thread) containing 85% or more of artificial staple fibres

    From France, the following products will face tariffs:

    • fatty substances derived from wool grease
    • chocolate and other cocoa preparations
    • lingonberry and raspberry jams
    • hams, shoulders and cuts thereof, with bone in
    • products suitable for use as glues or adhesives.

    Meat deal

    Ironically, European Union agriculture ministers on Monday approved a long-awaited meat standards pact with the United States, which was aimed at easing trans-atlantic tensions.

    The "veterinary equivalency" agreement will set up a framework for solving disputes and provide for the mutual recognition of animal health rules.

    However, it will not help in the current trade war over hormone-treated beef.



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