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EU Parliament Votes To End Beef Trade War With US, Canada

The European parliament in Strasbourg voted on Wednesday to approve a deal that effectively ends a more than two-decades-long trade war with the United States and Canada over the imports of hormone-treated beef.

The new deal allows the European Union to keep its ban imposed in 1988 on the import of hormone-treated beef and other meat products from US and Canada in return for increasing its quota for imports of high-quality North American beef.

In a 650 to 11 vote with 11 abstentions, European lawmakers approved the deal which sets the annual EU quota for the import of high-quality North American beef from cattle that have not been treated with growth hormones at 48,00 tons.

While 3,200 tons of EU's beef imports will be from Canada under the new deal , the remaining would be from the US. The deal, which takes effect from August 2012, has already been backed informally by the Council of EU Ministers.

Earlier, the US had challenged the EU ban on imports of hormone-treated beef at the World Trade Organization in 1996. After the WTO ruled in 1997 that the EU ban was illegal, the United States and Canada imposed sanctions on EU farm produce worth millions, including the ban imposed on beef imports over concerns about mad-cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE).

Later, the European Commission and the United States signed a deal in May 2009, requiring the US government to ease its sanctions on EU products in a phase manner while the European Union gradually increased its import quota for high-quality hormone-free beef. Subsequently, the US agreed in May 2011 to lift its retaliatory sanctions imposed on EU products.

Although the new deal has to rubber-stamped by the Council of EU Ministers for it to come into force, the procedure is considered to be a mere formality as the ministers have already the deal their informal approval. The EU member-nations expected to gain most from the lifting of US sanctions are Italy, Poland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Denmark, France and Spain.

Ahead of Wednesday's vote at the European Parliament, EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos told lawmakers that he expected the new deal to "lead to a definitive resolution of the dispute on hormone-treated beef in the WTO."

by RTT Staff Writer

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