GENEVA — On Jan. 15, the United States announced changes to trade sanctions it applies on European goods, prompting officials in Brussels to accuse Washington of escalating a 13-year-old beef hormone dispute and threaten new legal action, according to The Associated Press. Susan Schwab, the soon-to-be-departing U.S. trade representative, said that the U.S. would shift sanctions to new European goods to pressure the 27-nation European Union to comply with World Trade Organization rulings against its ban on hormone-treated beef.


Already charging higher import fees on many targeted goods such as Roquefort cheese and truffles, the U.S. has now added dozens of new products from pork, poultry and beef cuts to types of oats, sausages, mineral water and chewing gum to this category. In exchange, it has dropped some types of onions, carrots, Dijon mustard and other products.


"For over a decade, we have been trying to resolve this dispute with the EU, but our efforts have gone nowhere," Ms. Schwab said. "The existing duties have been in place for over nine years; the goal of these modifications is to reach a resolution of the dispute under which the EU would allow market access for U.S. beef and the United States could end its trade action."


Meanwhile, the European Union — minus Britain, which would not be affected by the new U.S. sanctions — immediately threatened to launch a new complaint at the WTO. The EU said the new policy would allow the U.S. to attack new European goods every six months with extra import taxes rising to as high as 100%.


Brussels said that would create increased uncertainty for European manufacturers whose products could now be heavily taxed at short notice. It added the U.S. is only authorized to attach the duties on a "fixed list of goods."


"Trans-Atlantic trade needs champions, not sanctions," EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said. "A large number of EU exporters will be hit by these illegal sanctions."


In a parting shot at Ms. Schwab, who leaves her post when U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes office Tuesday, Ms. Ashton added: "We look forward to working with the new administration to address this situation," AP reported


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