U.S. and Canada win EU beef hormone appeal at WTO

Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:14pm EDT
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By Jonathan Lynn

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Trade Organization's (WTO) top court largely backed the United States and Canada on Thursday in a mixed ruling in an appeal over the European Union's long-standing ban on beef treated with growth hormones. The dispute, dating back to the 1980s, has led to U.S. and Canadian sanctions of $125 million a year on European products from Roquefort cheese to mustard, and has highlighted the power of food safety issues to disrupt trade.

The appeal was over a challenge by Brussels to the right of the United States and Canada to continue applying sanctions against the EU.

U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab welcomed the WTO appeal court ruling in a statement, and said it meant there was no need for Washington to remove the sanctions.

"The Appellate Body's report confirms that WTO members that are subject to additional duties for failing to bring themselves into compliance with the WTO's rulings and recommendations must do more than simply claim compliance in order to obtain relief from such duties," she said.


The EU banned beef treated with growth hormones in the 1980s for fear it could cause cancer, and the United States and Canada have applied sanctions since 1999.

In March a WTO dispute panel found that a new risk assessment by the EU in 2003 had failed to justify the ban, which therefore still violated international trade rules.

But the panel also faulted the United States and Canada for deciding to retain sanctions against EU exports without initiating proper legal proceedings at the WTO to establish whether the continuing EU ban did in fact break WTO rules.   Continued...