DENVER — Discussions are underway to resolve the long-running dispute between the U.S and E.U. on the use of hormones in beef production. Thad Lively, U.S. Meat Export Federation senior vice-president, says these discussions hold great promise for the U.S. beef industry, but the time for reaching a compromise is running short.

On April 22, the United States is scheduled to impose carousel retaliation measures against a new list of products from the European Union in response to the E.U.’s long-standing ban on U.S. beef exports from cattle raised with growth promotants. The two sides have been negotiating a compromise that would keep the hormone ban in place, but provide other trade relief allowing the U.S. to export more beef to Europe.

"This goes all the way back to the 1980s when the E.U. decided it would ban the use of hormones in cattle," Mr. Lively said. "We took them into the World Trade Organization in the late 1990s and won that case. Since the E.U. would not drop its hormone ban, we had the right to block $117 million worth of their exports to the U.S.

"What has happened recently is our government has decided to change the list of products that they’re blocking (from the E.U.) and that’s the result of new discussions between the two governments about whether there is a way they might be able to resolve this dispute and move forward," he adds. "However, when the E.U. talks about resolving this dispute, they’re not talking about agreeing to drop the hormone ban."

What is being discussed is the E.U. would open up a new quota and the import tax or tariff that was assigned to imports from the U.S. would be lower than it is for other countries.

"The biggest roadblock relates to how long this agreement would last," Mr. Lively said. "We’re only interested in an agreement that’s going to last a long time."

Another major issue is to reach an agreement that as long as this agreement is in place, the E.U. will not go back to the W.T.O. and try to play out this case of hormones again.

"We really do view April 22 as the drop-dead date," Mr. Lively said. "Either the two governments are able to come to some agreement by then or they don’t. If they don’t, we will go ahead and retaliate against a whole new list of imports from the E.U.

"The E.U. has made it quite clear, however, that if we do that, they will take us to the W.T.O. over the whole question of the retaliation list," he continued. "That’s not a desirable outcome. What we’re looking at here is the possibility of greatly increasing our access to the European market for beef and that has a lot of value to the U.S industry."

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