Washington—Acting on the request of the US beef industry, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has scheduled a public hearing and is seeking public comments in connection with the European Union’s ban on most US beef products.
Among other things, the USTR is considering imposing higher duties on imports of Roquefort cheese from France as part of its actions against the European Union.
The EU bans the import of beef and beef products produced from animals to which any of six hormones have been administered for growth-promotion purposes, the USTR explained in a notice published in Wednesday’s Federal Register.
The effect of the EU ban is to prohibit the import of all but specially produced US beef and beef products.
In February 1998, a World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) in the case found that the ban was inconsistent with the EU’s obligations under the WTO Agreement.
In July 1999, a WTO arbitrator determined that the EU import ban on US beef and beef products had nullified or impaired US benefits under the WTO Agreement in the amount of $116.8 million each year.
On July 26, 1999, the DSB authorized the US to suspend the application to the EU, and its member countries, of WTO tariff concessions and related obligations covering trade in an amount of $116.8 million per year.
Pursuant to that authorization, USTR announced a list of EU products that would be subject to a 100 percent rate of duty effective with respect to products entered, or withdrawn from warehouse, for consumption on or after July 29, 1999.
That product list included Roquefort cheese.
In 2009, the US and the European Commission announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in the EUbeef case.
That Memorandum of Understanding provided for the EU to make phased increases in market access by adopting a tariff-rate quota (TRQ) for beef produced without growth-promoting hormones in return for the US making phased reductions in in additional duties the United States had imposed consistent with WTO authorization.
Both in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding and as a result of a United States appeals court decision, the USTR terminated all additional duties on EU products, effective May 2011.
In order to assist in a possible reinstatement of higher duties on Roquefort cheese and other products in the EU-beef case, the United States Trade Representative will conduct a review of the effectiveness of such an action, and other actions that could be taken (including actions against other products).
The deadline to submit written comments and requests to appear at the public hearing is Monday January 30, 2017.
The hearing itself will take place on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Wednesday, February 22, 2017, is the deadline for submitting posthearing rebuttal comments.
Over the last 20 years, US imports of Roquefort cheese have ranged from a low of 466,704 pounds in 2011 to a high of 902,676 pounds in 2003.
During the first 10 months of this year, US Roquefort imports totaled 708,971 pounds, up 30.3 percent from the first 10 months of last year.
All comments and requests to appear at the hearing must be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov; the docket number is USTR-2016-0025.