Measures concerning meat and meat products (hormones)

Status: Pending

Respondent: European Communities

Complainant(s): United States,

Third Parties: Canada, Norway, Australia, New Zealand,

Dispute Number: DS26, 48

Link to Dispute Site:

The United States and Canada challenged the EU ban on imports of meat from animals to which any of six hormones for growth promotional purposes had been administered.  The panel found that the EU ban is inconsistent with the EU’s obligations under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), and that the ban is not based on science, a risk assessment, or relevant international standards.

Upon appeal, the Appellate Body affirmed the panel’s findings that the EU ban fails to satisfy the requirements of the SPS Agreement.  The Appellate Body also found that, while a country has broad discretion in electing what level of protection it wishes to implement, in doing so it must fulfill the requirements of the SPS Agreement.  In this case, the ban imposed is not rationally related to the conclusions of the risk assessments the EU had performed.

Because the EU did not comply with the recommendations and rulings of the DSB by May 13, 1999, the final date of its compliance period as set by arbitration, the United States sought WTO authorization to suspend concessions with respect to certain products of the EU.  The value of the suspension of concessions represents an estimate of the annual harm to U.S. exports resulting from the EU’s failure to lift its ban on imports of U.S. meat.  The EU exercised its right to request arbitration concerning the amount of the suspension.  On July 12, 1999, the arbitrators determined the level of suspension to be $116.8 million.  On July 26, 1999, the DSB authorized the United States to suspend such concessions and the United States proceeded to impose 100 percent ad valorem duties on a list of EU products with an annual trade value of $116.8 million.  On May 26, 2000, USTR announced that it was considering changes to that list of EU products, but did not make any changes. 

On November 3, 2003, the EU notified the WTO that it had amended its hormones ban.  As discussed below (DS320), on November 8, 2004, the EU requested consultations with respect to “the United States’ continued suspension of concessions and other obligations under the covered agreements” in the EU – Hormones dispute.  The Appellate Body issued its report in the U.S. – Continued Suspension (WT/DS320) dispute on October 16, 2008.

On October 31, 2008, USTR again announced that it was considering changes to the list of EU products on which 100 percent ad valorem duties had been imposed in 1999.  A modified list of EU products was announced by USTR on January 15, 2009.

On December 22, 2008, the EU requested consultations with the United States and Canada pursuant to Articles 4 and 21.5 of the DSU, regarding the EU’s implementation of the DSB’s recommendations and rulings in the EU – Hormones dispute.  In its consultations request, the EU stated that it considered that it has brought into compliance the measures found inconsistent in EU – Hormones by, among other things, adopting its revised ban in 2003.  Consultations took place in February 2009. 

Discussions between the United States and the EU resulted in the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding (“Beef MOU”) on May 13, 2009.  The Beef MOU provides for increased, duty-free access to the EU market for beef produced without certain growth promoting hormones and maintains increased duties on a reduced list of EU products.  Under the terms of the Beef MOU, after three years, duty-free access to the EU market for beef produced without certain growth promoting hormones may increase and the application of all remaining increased duties imposed on EU products may be suspended.  The Beef MOU also suspends further litigation in the EU – Hormones compliance proceeding until at least February 3, 2011.