EU seals deal to end US beef row

Brussels (AFP) –


The EU has sealed a deal to end a long-running row with Washington over US beef imports, a statement said on Friday, with hopes that the agreement can ease transatlantic trade tensions.

"With this step, the European Union reaffirms its commitment to bring about a new phase in the relationship with the United States," said EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan in a statement.

The beef accord comes nearly a year after US President Donald Trump and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker pledged to hold off from further tit-for-tat tariffs and to a limited trade deal.

Tensions between the allies had ratcheted up after Trump slapped steel and aluminium tariffs on Europe and threatened more on cars.

The row over hormone-treated beef dates back to 1988, when Europe banned imports of meat from animals injected with growth hormones, a common US practice.

In retaliation, and in line with a WTO ruling, in 1999 Washington imposed higher customs duties on some European products, provoking angry protests in France.

Under a compromise reached in 2009 and amended in 2014, the United States lifted the sanctions and the EU created an import quota for "high-quality" hormone-free foreign beef, including that from the United States.

But other producers such as Argentina, Australia and Uruguay seized a large share of the quota, prompting President Barack Obama's administration to threaten a renewal of the customs penalties.

To reach the deal, EU member states allowed the commission to allocate the United States a larger part of the existing hormone-free beef quota that is also available to exporters from other countries.

The agreement provides for up to 35,000 tonnes of the quota to be reserved for the United States and to be gradually implemented over seven years.

The French beef industry angrily opposed the agreement.

The Interbev association in a statement slammed the Commission that "is once again sacrificing the climate, the beef sector and consumer health for the benefit of trade," it said.