Breadcrumb

Statement on EC-Biotech Dispute

01/13/2008

 

 

Washington, D.C. - The Office of the United States Trade
Representative commented on the January 11 expiration of the reasonable period
of time (RPT) for European Union (EU) compliance with the WTO rulings in the
EC-Biotech dispute.   


“The United States remains very concerned
with EU treatment of agricultural biotech products,” said USTR Spokeswoman
Gretchen Hamel.  “We are taking steps necessary under WTO rules to preserve
our right in the WTO to suspend trade concessions.” 


“At the same time,” explained Hamel, “our goal is to
normalize trade in biotech products, not to impose trade sanctions on EU
goods.  The EU has committed to making biotech approval decisions based on
science and without unnecessary delays, and it is in both parties’ interest for
the EU to follow through on these commitments.  Accordingly, we have agreed
with the EU to suspend for a limited period the proceedings on our WTO request
for authority to suspend concessions in order to provide the EU an opportunity
to demonstrate meaningful progress on the approval of biotech products.  We
must note, however, that the United States first turned to the WTO to resolve
this dispute over four and one half years ago, that U.S. seed companies,
farmers, and exporters continue to experience significant commercial losses as a
result of the EU actions, and that the patience of U.S.
stakeholders is close to exhaustion.” 


During the coming months, the United States
will periodically evaluate EU progress toward normalizing trade against a set of
benchmarks and timelines.  To a large extent, these performance measures
are set out in the EU’s own laws.  If the United States decides to pursue WTO proceedings
on the EU’s compliance, the United States would file a formal
consultation request with the EU, followed by a request for the establishment of
a WTO compliance panel.


In a related development, the Government of France
announced late Friday that it was imposing a ban on the planting of the only
biotech corn variety currently cultivated in the European Union.  “It is
hard to overstate our disappointment with this new biotech ban announced Friday
by the Government of France,” said Hamel.  “This newly banned variety of
corn has been grown safely in the EU, the United States,
and around the world for over a decade.  The WTO panel in the biotech case
previously found that a similar ban imposed by Austria was
unsupported by scientific evidence and inconsistent with WTO rules.  We
expect the European Commission to move promptly to lift this unjustified ban,
and would hope that the Government of France would reconsider this unwarranted
action.” 


Background: 


On September 29, 2006, the WTO issued the final report in
the case brought by the United
States, Argentina, and Canada against
the EU over the EU’s moratorium on approving agricultural biotech products and
over EU member State bans of previously-approved products.   The WTO
found that the EU measures were in breach of the EU’s obligations under the WTO
Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures.  On
November 21, 2006, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) adopted recommendations
and rulings calling for the EU to bring its measures into compliance with WTO
obligations.   The United States and the EU initially
agreed to a one-year RPT for EU compliance, which ended on November 21,
2006.  The parties subsequently agreed to extend the RPT until January 11,
2008.


# # #