With 650 votes in favour, 11 against and 11 abstentions, the Parliament approved the increase of the quota from 20,000t to 45,000t from 1 August, marking the “win-win resolution” of the beef dispute. The European Commission hopes the move will speed up the process started last week in the US, aiming to remove import restrictions imposed on European beef during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis of the 1990s.
Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said about the Parliament’s decision: “I hope this will lead to a definitive resolution of the hormone beef dispute at the World Trade Organization (WTO). I am very much aware of the fact that European veal and beef exports to the US remain blocked because of the American restrictions related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
“Today I can at least note that the ‘proposed rule’ on the topic has been published in the Federal Register. It is a publication opening a consultation period with interested parties, and I hope the process will finish as soon as possible.”
European Commission spokesperson Roger Waite said that, in return, the US had already lifted the sanctions on imports of EU products linked to the original WTO ruling on the beef hormone ban. “Although there must still formally be a vote in the Council, too, the EP vote [means] there’s a first reading agreement – and an end to the long-running beef hormone ‘war’, from our perspective,” he told GlobalMeatNews.
Ciolos added that the US restrictions on European beef products are not in line with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) rules, which stipulate that beef trade must be allowed between countries in the same risk category. EU member states and the US are on the same ‘controlled risk’ category.
US to lift BSE-related import restrictions
On 9 March, APHIS proposed to “revise the conditions for the importation of live bovines and products derived from bovines with regard to BSE, and (...) to establish a system and process for classifying regions as to BSE risk that is consistent with the system and process employed by the OIE” – a step welcomed by both European and American meat trade representatives.
The US National Meat Association (NMA) said the rule would modernise the American import scheme and bring it in line with the international standards the country asks its trading partners to adopt. “If we expect other countries to have scientifically-based standards, then it is important for us to have them ourselves,” an NMA spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews.
In the UK, English beef and lamb levy body Eblex said that, although the US would remain a minor market for British beef, the lifting of BSE restrictions was likely to help trade with other countries. “Looking at the wider picture, many of our potential trading partners take their lead from the US. Lifting of restrictions and recognition of equivalent status will certainly help in negotiations with countries in the Far East, for example,” said Eblex head of trade development Peter Hardwick.
National Beef Association (NBA) assistant director Joanne Pugh added: “It’s not just that the USA would be an interesting new export market for British beef, it’s the acknowledgement by yet another country that beef from the UK is some of the safest and highest-quality anywhere in the world.”