10 February 2000
New targets for US tariffs?

By FWi staff

THE USA could hit a new group of EU goods with retaliatory duties in response to the long-standing ban on American hormone-treated beef.

US farm groups advocate periodically rotating the duties to a new set of goods to keep the EU off guard and motivated to reach a negotiated solution to the 10-year dispute.

Now a top US official has announced that the Clinton Administration is to consider this idea.

At present the USA slaps 100% import duties on some EU pork and beef products and gourmet items such as paté, Roquefort cheese and Dijon mustard.

Britain has so far escaped retaliatory duties because it did not back EU calls for US hormone-treated beef to be banned due to health fears.

Many observers believe that, even if the duties are rotated to cover a new set of goods, Britain will still avoid them.

On Tuesday (08 February) US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky announced she had asked an interagency panel to quickly examine the impact of rotating the US$116.8 million in retaliatory duties.

Once the panel makes its recommendation, “well proceed as quickly as possible,” Ms Barshefsky said.

However, she declined to offer a timetable.

She also disclosed that current discussions with the EU were making “a little progress”.

Meanwhile, the EU has postponed for a month a decision on whether to continue allowing imports of hormone-free beef. from the USA.

EU veterinary inspectors said US systems could not guarantee beef was hormone-free. Since then, the USA has revamped its system to comply with EU requirements.

The National Cattlemens Beef Association, a US industry group, has said it would be willing to accept increased access to the EU hormone-free beef market in exchange for the USA dropping the retaliation.

There are fears that, if the EU bans all US meat products, it could spark a trade war which would make the current dispute over hormone-treated beef seem like a skirmish.