* Lawmakers approve rise in imports of hormone-free beef
* Vote ends long-running trade dispute
By Gilbert Reilhac
STRASBOURG, March 14 The European
Parliament approved a deal between the EU and both the United
States and Canada on hormone-treated beef on Wednesday, ending
one of the trading powers' oldest disputes.
The case dates back to 1988 when the European Union banned
all imports of beef from cattle treated with growth hormones, a
move that prompted U.S. and Canadian sanctions of $125 million a
year on European products from Roquefort cheese to truffles and
The EU and Washington had agreed in 2009 that the 27-member
bloc would keep its ban on hormone-treated beef but that the
U.S. would gradually lift its sanctions in exchange for a steep
rise in the EU's duty-free import quotas of hormone-free beef.
The volumes of hormone-free beef exempted from taxes were
put at 20,000 tonnes that year and are due to be lifted to
48,200 tonnes by August 2012, of which 45,000 tonnes for U.S.
beef and 3,200 tonnes for Canadian imports.
The United States lifted its import duties on all targeted
European luxury foods in May last year.
Although EU farmers had feared a surge in imports of North
American beef, these failed to materialise as the United States
became a net importer of beef after grain that formerly went to
animal feed was used to make biofuels.
The EU has insisted its ban on hormone-treated beef, which
is largely approved by EU consumers, rests on scientific
evidence of health risks, though the United States and Canada
reject such evidence.
The main beneficiaries of the lifting of the U.S. sanctions
are expected to be Italy, Poland, Greece, Ireland, Germany,
Denmark, France and Spain, the EU Parliament said in a
The Council of Ministers still needs to rubber-stamp the
decision but it already gave its informal approval, the
Speaking to lawmakers before the vote, EU farm chief Dacian
Ciolos said he hoped the deal would lead to a definitive
resolution of the hormone-treated beef dispute at the World
Ciolos also noted the publication last week of draft rules
by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lift the ban on all EU
beef imports, imposed in 1997 in the wake of the BSE crisis. He
said he hoped the rules would be finalised "in a timely manner".
(Additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore in Brussels, writing
by Sybille de La Hamaide, editing by William Hardy)