Canada gets duty-free beef quota to EU

Tue Nov 23, 2010 4:35pm EST
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada has gained duty-free access to the European Union for a 20,000-tonne annual quota of beef, Canada's agriculture and trade ministers said on Tuesday, in a move aimed at resolving a longstanding dispute amid talks on a broad free trade agreement.

The quota for beef from cattle not raised with growth hormones is worth about C$10 million ($9.8 million) annually, and matches access that Europe has already granted to the United States.

Hormone treatments are widely used in North America to speed cattle growth and reduce feed costs, leading the EU over 20 years ago to restrict North American beef over health concerns.

Canada Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said only Canada, the United States and Australia have this level of access to the EU beef market.

"After two decades, our producers will again have (tariff-free) access," he told Reuters in an interview.

Ritz said the WTO ruled in Canada's favor on the beef hormone dispute with the EU several years ago, and the quota is the negotiated result of that ruling.

He said Canada will make the case for further access in ongoing talks with the EU.

Canada and the European Commission have finalized a memorandum of understanding aimed at a final resolution of the long-standing WTO dispute that will ultimately add 3,200 tonnes to the 20,000 tonne quota, Ritz said.   Continued...