BRUSSELS — The European Union agreed Friday to new talks with the United States regarding hormone-treated beef Friday, but it insisted it would stick by its ban on the meat.
The new talks were required after the United States lodged a complaint earlier Friday with the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, but the EU's executive commission predicted they would not be successful.
"I cannot see how we can resolve the dispute during the consultation period," commission spokesman Gerry Kiely said. "When I say there is little space for maneuver, I means there is practically no space to maneuver."
The 14 other EU nations, with Britain the lone holdout, have staunchly defended the ban on hormone-treated beef. Most American beef is from cattle that have been treated with artificial hormones; American farmers say the ban could deny them as much as $100 million in beef exports.
Earlier this month, U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor said that the United States would ask the WTO to override the ban unless the EU agreed to change its rules. Kantor said that a panel of more than 80 European scientists agreed there was no scientific evidence to show hormones are dangerous.
Following WTO procedures, Washington requested consultations with the EU, and Kiely said the commission would respond within the 10-day limit. But little more would happen during the next two-month consultation period, he said.
"We will defend our position vigorously," he said.
Even if the 124-nation WTO panel rules against the EU, which it may, the 1988 ban may still be extended, with the EU paying Washington compensation instead of allowing U.S. meat imports.
Since the ban was issued, the United States has already responded with trade sanctions on EU tomato paste and citrus fruits.