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US hits EU with new tariffs in beef row

Published on 16/01/2009
WASHINGTON – The United States imposed new tariffs on European products Thursday in retaliation for an EU ban on US hormone-treated beef, escalating a longstanding trade dispute.

US penalties tripled in one case, on French-produced Roquefort cheese. The US updated its list of punitive duties, adding some products while deleting others. The new duties take effect on March 23.

"For over a decade, we have been trying to resolve this dispute with the EU, but our efforts have gone nowhere," US Trade Representative Susan Schwab said as the new tariffs were announced.

"In these circumstances, I have decided it is time to modify the duties to try to encourage a resolution of this longstanding dispute so as finally to provide a fair outcome for the US beef industry, while addressing the economic impact of such long-standing duties on US interests."

Under the actions, France’s renowned blue cheese saw its duties raised to 300 percent from 100 percent. All the other goods, including mineral waters, hams, sausages, oats, truffles, chocolate and pears, have duties of 100 percent.

Asked why Roquefort cheese was singled out for tripled duties, USTR spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said the intent of the duties was "to shut down trade in the targeted products."

"Imports of Roquefort cheese have continued since 1999, notwithstanding the imposition of 100 perecent duties. We expect that a 300 percent duty will have the desired effect on imports," she told AFP.

The USTR said the decision to modify the target list was taken under a 1998 WTO ruling that found the EU ban on US beef administered certain growth-promoting hormones, begun in 1988, was not supported by science and was thus inconsistent with WTO rules.

The trade action affects products from 26 members of the 27-nation bloc; the exception is Britain, which allows US hormone-treated beef imports.

The USTR said the trade value of the targeted products continued to be below the 116.8 million dollars annually authorized by the WTO in July 1999.