"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, dating back to the early 1980s. 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. Many in the United States perceive the EU's ban as an example of how sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and non-tariff barriers are used as disguised protectionism, primarily intended to restrict imports from other countries. 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. These changes were scheduled to go into effect on March 23, 2009. The EU claimed this action constituted an 'escalation' of the dispute and was 'more punitive' than current trade sanctions. The EU decided to hold off further action until the Obama Administration reviewed the decision. The Administration delayed implementing the changes, pending further negotiations with the EU. In May 2009, following a series of negotiations, the United States and the EU signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which phases in certain changes over several years. Following initial implementation of some of these changes, in May 2011, USTR announced it was terminating higher duties for imported products listed under the dispute. USTR continues to monitor EU implementation of the MOU and other policies affecting market access for U.S. beef."
CRS Report for Congress, R40449