NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Tariffs To Turn A Gourmet's Stomach

July 20, 1999

The U.S. is about to strike back at European countries which oppose imports of hormone-treated American beef. On July 29, tariffs of 100 percent are scheduled to be imposed on a number of gourmet food items produced especially by Denmark, France, Germany and Italy -- the biggest supporters of the European Union's ban on hormone-treated beef.

  • The products range from truffles to roasted chicory and lingonberry jam to goose liver.
  • The ban also includes tomatoes, Roquefort cheese, prepared mustard and meat from swine.
  • The tariffs are estimated to be worth some $116.8 million.
  • While many Europeans believe the hormones used to treat cattle may cause cancer, most scientists in America and abroad have rejected that argument.

U.S. trade representatives point out that this is the second time this year that the EU has ignored a World Trade Organization order and has been slapped with U.S. sanctions. The WTO sided with the U.S. in both the dispute over the EU's refusal to import bananas from some Caribbean and Latin American countries, and its ban of hormone-treated beef. The U.S. earlier imposed nearly $200 million in sanctions against the EU in the banana dispute.

These costly squabbles not only harm consumers. They also undermine the strength of the WTO. If the WTO becomes irrelevant, it will be a costly blow to the hopes of free trade advocates, experts warn.

Source: Helene Cooper, "U.S. Imposes 100 Percent Tariffs on Slew of Gourmet Imports in War Over Beef," Wall Street Journal, July 20, 1999.


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