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U.S. Seeks Truce in Trade Spat Over Treated Beef

February 17, 1989|ART PINE | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Bush Administration will seek a compromise with the European Community this weekend in an effort to win a truce in the controversial trade skirmish over Europe's refusal to accept American beef that has been treated with growth-inducing hormones.

In a meeting with top European trade officials Saturday, U.S. negotiators are expected to propose that the United States temporarily provide Europe with hormone-free beef if the Europeans will agree to let a panel of neutral scientists judge whether the ban is justified on health grounds.

Threatening to Escalate

The United States, contending that growth-inducing hormones pose no health hazard, argues that they are used so early in the process that no residue is left when beef cattle are slaughtered.

In reality, according to U.S. officials, the hormone ban is nothing more than a trade barrier in disguise.

Most U.S. beef has been produced with growth-inducing hormones, and both the United States and Europe have banned domestic use of ones they consider hazardous.

The flap over the issue is threatening to escalate into a full-scale trade war. In retaliation for the ban, the United States imposed 100% duties on about $100 million worth of food imports from Europe in January, 1988.

Similar Duties

The Europeans threatened to counter-retaliate by imposing similar duties on American food products. But they put off any such action at Washington's request to give both sides a chance to cool off.

The Cabinet-level meeting Saturday, to be attended by U.S. Trade Representative Carla A. Hills and Agriculture Secretary Clayton K. Yeutter, is designed to produce at least some progress before European officials meet Monday to reconsider their counter-retaliation.

The Europeans due here for Saturday's session include Frans Andriessen, the European Community's trade minister, and Ray MacSharry, its agriculture minister.

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