EU Beef Trade Talks Dissolve; U.S. Prepares To Retaliate

TOKYO: The United States and the European Union today failed to reach a breakthrough in a bitter trade row over U.S. hormone-treated beef, with Washington stepping up warnings of retaliation. U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky held talks with European Commission vice president Leon Brittan here together with their Japanese and Canadian counterparts. Asked whether any new proposal was made by Brittan over the issue, Barshefsky told a group of reporters: "No, we just had general discussions of the matter." The meeting came only a day before the Thursday deadline in which the World Trade Organization could order the European Union to lift a 10-year-old ban on U.S. hormone-treated beef or face U.S. trade sanctions. "We, as you know, have rights in the WTO of compensation or retaliation in the event a trading partner does not comply with a dispute settlement ruling," Barshefsky said. "We will not drop our plan. We intend to avail ourselves of our WTO rights and seek authorization to retaliate." Since the EU has indicated it will not comply, Washington would proceed on Thursday with its authorization request from the WTO to withdraw concessions, she said. Washington has vowed to impose 190 million dollars (180 million euros) worth of sanctions on EU goods if Brussels does not back down. On Monday, Brittan said in Berlin that he was ready to offer compensation to the United States for the ban involving lowering duties on other goods from the United States and Canada, whose beef is also banned for the same reason. The EU has said it will maintain its ban because of fears that the growth hormones used could cause cancer, nerve disorders and developmental deficiencies among humans -- an argument rejected by the United States.

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