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France May Ban U.S. Meat Over Hormones

May 12, 1997|From Reuters

PARIS — French Agriculture Minister Philippe Vasseur threatened Sunday to ban imports of U.S. meat treated with hormones, even if it meant heavy fines for Paris.

France also would require special labels on American meat as of July 1, so that consumers would know its country of origin, Vasseur said in an interview on France Info radio.

Since 1989, the European Union has barred imports of beef produced with the aid of synthetic growth hormones.

But the World Trade Organization, in an interim report issued last Wednesday, agreed with Washington's argument that the ban was not based on any demonstrated health risk and was therefore an unfair trade barrier.

Vasseur called the U.S. complaint "entirely unfriendly," saying he saw no reason "to try to impose meat on French consumers that they do not want.

"My preferred solution, the solution preferred by France, would be to refuse imports of U.S. meat treated with hormones," he said.

"I say quite clearly, France is entirely prepared to pay penalties if that is what is needed to prevent hormone-treated American meat from gaining entry to our territory," Vasseur said.

Philippe de Villiers, president of the hard-right Movement for France, said in an interview published Sunday that the WTO decision demonstrated that the European Commission is incapable of defending Europeans' interests.

"This is not a question of unemployment but of public health," de Villiers said in an interview in the Weekly Le Journal du Dimanche.

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