EU ends beef trade war with North America | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 14.03.2012
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EU ends beef trade war with North America

The European Parliament has voted in favor of ending a decades-old trade war over beef imports from North America. Imports will rise, but the EU will maintain its ban on hormone-treated meat.

The European Parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of increasing imports of high-quality beef from the United States and Canada in a move that aimed to end one of the oldest trade wars between Europe and North America.

The war erupted in 1988 when the EU banned imports of beef products from animals that had been treated with growth hormones.

In a late retaliatory move taken with the backing of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the US and Canada in 1999 limited duty-free imports of a variety of European products, ranging from chocolate to cheese and mustard.

Wednesday's deal foresees raising the volumes of conventional beef imports from North America from 20,000 tons to 48,000 tons annually, while the European ban on hormone-treated meat is to remain in place.

Better safe than sorry?

The EU keeps justifying its ban on the basis of scientific evidence, which it says identifies a number of health risks for people consuming hormone-treated beef. The United States and Canada have always rejected such evidence as unconvincing.

The two North American countries have already fulfilled their end of the bargain by lifting their sanctions on European products. The main beneficiaries of the move in Europe will be Italy, Poland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, France and Spain, the EU parliament said in a statement in Brussels. Britain was the only EU member state that was not affected by the sanctions.

"That's good news for European consumers, who will have greater access again to beef products from North America without having to fear hormone-treated products," said Godelieve Quisthoudt-Rowohl, a Member of the European Parliament from Germany's Christian Democratic Party.

The deal comes into effect on August 1 this year. It requires formal approval by the Council of Ministers, which has already signaled its support.

hg / mll (Reuters, AFP)