EU, US clinch deal in principle on US-only quota for hormone-free beef imports

25 March 2019 4:14pm

14 March 2019. By Joanna Sopinska.

US beef farmers could soon gain easier access to the EU’s market, as the bloc’s executive arm agreed in principle to allocate to the US an exclusive quota of 35,000 metric tons of "not hormone-treated" beef, MLex has learned. A fenced-off allocation is part of the EU’s global 45,000 tone hormone-free quota.

EU governments and lawmakers must yet endorse the tentative deal, before it is sent to the World Trade Organization for an approval.

The EU opened talks with the US last year to address Washington’s concerns about access to the bloc’s global quota, which was established to settle the EU-US “hormone dispute.”

The dispute dates back to 1996, when the US and Canada challenged the EU ban on imports of hormone-treated beef at the WTO. The EU lost the case in 1998, and the US imposed sanctions on the bloc. In 2004, the EU challenged these sanctions, but due to some procedural mistakes the WTO didn’t issue an unequivocal ruling.

In 2009, the EU and the US reached a deal which opened up the EU market with duty-free access for 20,000 metric tons of beef in the first three years, increasing to 45,000 metric tons thereafter. But the first-come, first-served quota was also made available to other beef-exporting nations such as Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Uruguay, eating into the share for US farmers.

The new arrangements on the functioning of quota will be “fully in line with WTO rules,” the European Commission said ahead of talks with the US.

But the EU-US deal risks being challenged by Australia, Argentina and other major beef suppliers, over lost market access.