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Tuesday, July 20, 1999 Published at 20:14 GMT 21:14 UK

Business: The Economy

EU boycott call over US tariffs

Consumers are being asked not to buy US products like this Chrysler Viper

French farmers are calling for consumers in the European Union to boycott American products after the US said it would impose high tariffs on European goods in the row over hormone-treated beef.

Washington is hitting back at the EU for refusing to remove its 10-year-old ban on the beef.

The EU says 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 dispute this.

Chocolate, onions on tariff menu

Now the US plans to impose 100% tariffs on European goods ranging from chocolate and pork to onions and truffles. The sanctions will come into effect on 29 July.

But two leading farm unions in France are calling on consumers to strike back. France will be hit by tariffs on many animal products, but also luxury goods like foie gras and Roquefort blue cheese.

"To support the European Commission in its decision to retain its ban, we ask European consumers to boycott all products from the United States," said Pascal Coste, president of the young farmers' union, CNJA.

'Public opinion will rebel'

He cited items such as Chrysler cars, electronic goods and Florida orange juice as examples which should be struck off shopping lists.

"Public opinion will rebel against this. People are fed up that the Americans are telling us what we should eat," said Mr Coste.

The farm union FNSEA joined in the boycott call, describing Washington's attitude as scandalous and accusing the WTO of complicity.

The union's director-general, Yves Salmon, said the US was "taking hostage European farmers who have nothing to do with this conflict".

Italian pork producers are also weighing up the implications of the tariffs.

[ image: Pork producers will be badly hit by the tariffs]
Pork producers will be badly hit by the tariffs
"It would certainly be a negative, unfair move which would damage us considerably," said Edoardo Marcucci of the National Association of Pig Farmers.

He said the industry was already in crisis, with prices well below production costs.

In the worst case, he said, Italy might stop exports of products like Parma ham to the US.

Pork will be one the products worst hit by the tariffs, making up about one quarter of the $116m total.

US officials say their list 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.

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