Just when Canada’s beef industry has been celebrating improved access to the European market, the U.S. is stepping up its competition for that market.
Figures released this week indicate that U.S. beef shipments to Europe increased to 16,753 metric tonnes for the fiscal year ended June 30, up from 9,330 tonnes for fiscal 2009-10.
More important, the U.S. is dropping its ban on European beef, opening the door for a tit-for-tat response from the Europeans.
The U.S. ban began when Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow’s disease) raised a world-wide scare that beef might cause incurable Creutzfeldt-Jacob brain disease in humans.
Most nations have dropped their ban on European beef because they follow international standards for trade; the U.S. move finally brings it into compliance with the standard.
Beef-industry spokesmen in the U.S. say the stage is now set for negotiations to persuade the Europeans to relax their bans on growth-promoting products most North American beef producers use to improve beef-raising profits and carcass quality.
Canada and the U.S. are only able to sell limited amounts of beef to European buyers because Europe limits the volume it will allow to enter without facing a high tariff.
Europe and the U.S. are also involved in the early stages of negotiation on a free-trade agreement.
The tariff is more than high enough to make North American beef uncompetitive.