U.S. claims victory in WTO meat hormone ruling

Mon Mar 31, 2008 11:21am EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization court has ruled that a European Union ban on beef from cattle treated with certain hormones is "scientifically unjustified," the Bush administration said on Monday.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab called the latest ruling in a long-running trans-Atlantic trade spat an "important victory" for the U.S. livestock industry.

"It is high time for the EU to come into compliance with its obligations," Schwab said in a statement.

But the report, made public in Geneva, found fault on both sides of the dispute, saying that Washington and Ottawa had been wrong to extend unilaterally their sanctions on EU exports imposed because of the ban.

Schwab's office acknowledged that the WTO panel had found that the United States should have gone back to the WTO court when it disagreed with the EU's assertion that its rules were brought into compliance after 2003.

The dispute dates back to the mid-1990s, when the United States and Canada complained that their exports were unfairly stifled by EU policy on commonly used growth hormones.

In Europe, the hormones are seen as posing a risk to consumers.

After an initial ruling, the WTO had authorized trade retaliation worth around $117 million a year, Schwab's office said.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan, editing by Matthew Lewis)