Accord reached on beef trade as poultry barriers go up
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The United States and the European Union reached agreement Wednesday on most meat inspection standards in a dispute that had threatened about $350 million in U.S.-European trade.
Although several issues remained unresolved, including U.S. poultry decontamination methods, the accord provides a framework for recognizing each side’s slaughter hygiene requirements as equal to the other’s, the Agriculture Department said Thursday.
It also establishes a process for dealing with remaining and newly emerging veterinary inspection programs.
``The progress made should open new trade opportunities for red meat and preserve most pre-existing trade in products such as pet food, dairy and egg products,″ Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said in a statement.
``In those areas were we were not able to reach full agreement, a framework now exists to resolve a number of outstanding issues,″ he added.
The so-called veterinary equivalency agreement covers more than $1.5 billion in animal product exports each by the United States and the 15-nation EU.
Glickman had threatened restrictions that would have barred about $300 million in European meat products annually if an agreement had not been reached by Thursday.
After nearly three years of negotiations came to an impasse last week, Glickman telephoned EU Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler on Monday in an effort to avert the sanctions. Negotiators then resumed talks.
Despite the framework agreement, EU objections to the U.S. practice of decontaminating slaughtered chickens with chlorinated water at the end of processing remained unresolved.
Contending the practice is not adequate protection against contamination, the EU imposed new standards on April 1 that blocked about $50 million in U.S. poultry exports to Europe.
``Poultry exports will not resume,″ Paul Drazek, the chief U.S. negotiator, told reporters.
The poultry industry expressed disappointment, saying anti-microbial rinses such as chlorinated water are an important tool in enhancing food safety.
“The unreasonable and unyielding stance of the European Union ... is nothing more than a blatant attempt to restrict competition from U.S. poultry companies in Europe,″ the National Broiler Council, the National Turkey Federation and the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council said in a statement.
With no agreement on poultry, the United States will begin a thorough examination of the EU’s poultry inspection system and its ability to meet tough U.S. meat inspection rules, the department said.
Until the study is completed, the United States will block an estimated $1 million in EU poultry exports, Drazek said.