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US-EU dispute over beef nears an end

Associated Press / May 7, 2009
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BRUSSELS - The United States yesterday dropped its threat to impose import duties on such classic European products as Italian mineral water and French Roquefort cheese after it struck a deal with the European Union to bring a 13-year trade disagreement closer to an end.

French farmers had begged President Obama to back off from the threat to triple import duties for their pungent cheese. The United States buys a fifth of Roquefort's output.

The extra trade charges were due to start this week on a range of goods from every EU nation except Britain. It would have hit truffles, pork, poultry, beef, oats, sausages, and even chewing gum. They were announced by the outgoing Bush administration just days before it left office.

The United States wanted to impose the higher import duties to pressure the 27-nation EU to comply with World Trade Organization rulings against a European ban on beef treated with growth-promoting hormones.

Under the deal, the EU will buy more US beef in return for keeping a ban on hormone-treated beef, which it claims poses a threat to human health. The United States and Canada say there is no evidence of this.

The deal needs approval by European Union governments and the US Congress.