US prepares pounds 560m trade war on Europe

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The Independent Online
THE UNITED States raised the stakes in the transatlantic trade wars last night, warning that if Europe does not start importing hormone- treated American beef it will impose punitive tariffs on $900m (pounds 560m) of European goods.

The list of goods, which ranges from beef and pork meat exports to cut flowers and motorcycles, will come on top of $800m of products ranging from cashmere sweaters to perfume, already affected by a parallel row with the US over European imports of bananas.

Now the US says that Europe must begin imports of beef made from cattle which have been injected with bovine growth hormone, despite a long-standing ban imposed by the European Union in 1989. The US insists that the meat is safe, as the process has been approved by its Food and Drug Administration, and that therefore it should not be labelled.

But Sue Dibb, of the Food Commission, a consumer group, said: "We should be able to say that we don't want it."

EU foreign ministers have said imports will not be allowed to begin before the completion of full scientific studies on the hormone's possible harmful effects. The EU has offered to pay compensation to the US for loss of export earnings, but the Americans are demanding compliance by 13 May with a World Trade Organisation edict that the ban breaches trade rules. A third source of dispute is on aircraft: the EU has brought in a requirement that older aircraft flying here should be equipped with noise- reducing "hush kits". But the US has threatened to ban Concordes operated by British Airways and Air France.

Nick Brown, the Minister of Agriculture, said the US "would be within its rights" to impose the tarrifs. He said: "The UK has always opposed the EU ban on the grounds that it is not justified by the science."