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Potential Swiss ban of U.S. beef concerns U.S. industry.

A trade agreement between Switzerland and the EU will result in a Swiss ban on imported U.S. and Canadian beef if the animals from which the meat comes were produced with growth hormones. The agreement is designed to bring Switzerland's sanitary and phytosanitary rules into conformity with EU standards, and the EU for the past 21 years has banned imports of hormone beef. Switzerland is not a member of the EU. According to the Swiss Federal Veterinary Office, Switzerland annually imports approximately 11,000 tonnes of beef, less than 3 percent of which is from the United States and less than 1 percent of which originates in Canada. More than 80 percent of Switzerland's annual beef imports come from Brazil. Switzerland will continue to import U.S. and Canadian beef if exporters certify that it was produced without growth hormones.

In 1996, United States and Canada jointly filed a successful complaint with the WTO regarding the EU's ban on hormone beef. After winning the case, the two countries were granted authorization to impose retaliatory sanctions against the EU in for form of increased tariffs for a selected list of products in the amount of US$116.8 million and C$11.3 million, respectively. Those sanctions have been in place since July 1999.

More recently the EU brought a new WTO case against the United States alleging that it is now in compliance on the beef hormone issue and that U.S. retaliatory tariffs against EU products is no longer valid on procedural grounds. The WTO Dispute Settlement Panel called for a panel of scientific experts to review the science behind this claim. According to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, "The formation of this panel indicates the panel's concern that the EU has no new scientific justification to make this claim." A ruling on the EU's complaint is due to be issued by the WTO panel this month.

NCBA says the EU this year could become the second largest beef importer in the world.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Date:Oct 23, 2006
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