International Trade
The US Trade Representative is considering reinstating tariffs on a list of products made in the European Union.

WASHINGTON – The US Trade Representative (USTR) scheduled a public hearing to receive public input regarding the European Union’s ban on most beef products produced in the United States. USTR said the US would reinstate industry-supported tariffs on a list of EU products imported into the US if the ban continues.

The EU had previously imposed a ban on imports of meat and meat products sourced from animals treated with certain hormones. But in 1998, the World Trade Organization ruled that reasons for the ban were not science-based and therefore violated WTO rules. A year later, the WTO authorized the US to impose tariffs valued at $116.8 million.

In 2008, the WTO reaffirmed the United States’ right to continue the tariffs, and the next year the US and the EU signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) under which the EU would create a duty-free quota for imports of specially produced beef in exchange for the elimination of the tariffs on EU imports. But the USTR said the US beef industry has been prevented from gaining the benefits of the MOU because of increased imports by non-US beef producers under the duty-free quota.

Ambassador Michael Froman
Ambassador Michael Froman, US Trade Representative

“The WTO determined that the European Union's ban on US beef imports violates its international trade obligations,” said Ambassador Michael Froman, US Trade Representative. “The EU has failed to live up to assurances to address this issue, and it’s now time to take action.”

Froman added that taking the first steps toward reinstating trade action against the EU “holds the EU accountable and is an important step in encouraging the 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 US beef.”

Industry stakeholders applauded the action. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said retaliation is the only way for cattle producers to recoup losses incurred by the EU’s ban.

“The European Union has left us no choice but to seek compensation for the long-standing mistreatment of US beef exports,” Tracy Brunner, NCBA president, said in a statement. “Our temporary agreement with the EU was meant to be an opportunity to build a bridge of trust between US beef producers and EU consumers, and to compensate the United States for the losses we have suffered as a result of the EU’s hormone ban. The EU has violated the spirit of that agreement and caused US beef exports to become a minority interest in a quota meant to compensate US beef producers.”

The USTR said an interagency committee will participate in the hearing and review public comments on products and EU member States that may be subject to additional tariffs.

“The duty-free beef quota was established specifically to allow the US to export high quality beef to the EU, but other countries have been inappropriately allowed market access through the quota, as well,” said Barry Carpenter, president and CEO of the North American Meat Institute. “While retaliation is a last resort, it is the only way to secure fair compensation for the losses the US meat industry has incurred over the years due to the EU’s hormone ban.”

The deadline for submitting written comments and request to appear at the hearing is Jan. 30, 2017. Additional information is available in the Federal Register Notice.