"The United States and the European Union (EU) have engaged in a long-standing and acrimonious trade dispute over the EU's decision to ban hormone-treated meat. Despite an ongoing series of dispute settlement proceedings and decisions by the World Trade Organization (WTO), there is continued disagreement between the United States and the EU on a range of legal and procedural issues, as well as the scientific evidence and consensus concerning the safety of hormone-treated beef. [...] Over the years, the United States and the EU have attempted to resolve this dispute through a series of WTO dispute consultations, settlement panels, arbitration proceedings, and formal appeals. One of the earlier WTO panel decisions in 1997 ruled against the EU on the grounds that the ban is inconsistent with the EU's WTO obligations under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement because the EU had not conducted a risk assessment. In response, the EU commissioned studies and reviews to address the scientific basis of its ban on hormone-treated meat. Following each of these reviews, the EU reaffirmed its position that there are possible risks to human health associated with hormone-treated meat, given the available scientific data. The EU claims it has complied with its WTO obligations and has challenged the United States for maintaining its prohibitive import tariffs on EU products. The United States disputes whether the EU has conducted an adequate risk assessment to support its position and maintains there is a clear worldwide scientific consensus supporting the safety to consumers of eating hormone-treated meat. In October 2008, the WTO issued a mixed ruling allowing the United States to continue its trade sanctions, but allowing the EU to maintain its ban. In January 2009, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for the outgoing Bush Administration announced changes to the list of EU products subject to increased tariffs under the dispute, including changes to the EU countries and products affected, and higher tariffs on some products. The EU claimed this action constituted an 'escalation' of the dispute. In May 2009, following a series of negotiations, the United States and the EU agreed to a settlement that could resolve this long-standing trade dispute. The terms of this agreement will be phased in over the next few years."
CRS Report for Congress, R40449