White House has beef with EU trade rules

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman announced Thursday that this office was moving against the European Union over the bloc’s ban on U.S. beef.

Froman said the EU’s ban on U.S. beef was “not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers and producers” and violates World Trade Organization standards. He said that if the ban stands, the U.S. would reinstate “industry-supported tariffs” on a variety of EU imports.

“The EU has failed to live up to assurances to address this issue, and it’s now time to take action. Today’s action holds the EU accountable and is an important step in encouraging the [European] Commission to come back to the table to ensure that American ranchers have access to Europe’s market and that European consumers have better access to high-quality U.S. beef,” Froman said. The office will hold hearings and solicit public comments on the ban and how to respond, he said.

The U.S. beef industry exports an average $6 billion per year and employs an estimated 50,000 people, according to the trade representative’s office. Europeans have said that use of hormones in the U.S. industry raises questions about the safety of the stock and acted to restrict imports in 1998. The U.S. has dismissed those concerns, pointing out that no reputable study has shown any harm.

“There is no doubt that American beef products are safe. The 20-year EU ban has been in effect far too long. It is not based on fact and should be lifted,” said Rep. Collin Peterson of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee. “The beef industry is an important contributor to our nation’s economy, especially rural economy. This announcement is welcome news for America’s beef producers.”

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