By André Gayot
The European Commission and the US Department of Commerce have finally resolved their differences, and they appear to have read our earlier blogs to find their solution. Under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, after smoking the peace pipe (the tobacco was American but the pipe was European), they have wisely buried the hatchet. The archaic war of the beef will not unravel any longer, and the battle of the cheese has ceased.
Any sensible person would probably agree that In the middle of the world economic meltdown, there was no need for a family feud. In 1998, Uncle Sam was up in arms because as a result of the Mad Cow tragedy, the European Union banned the use of chemical products to raise and feed cattle, thus shutting the door to growth hormone treated American cattle. In retaliation, the US threatened to raise taxes on a number of imported European food products such as Roquefort cheese (300%) or San Pellegrino water (100%), both emblematic of upscale European natural products. Such an increase would have condemned the distribution of these imports and all the economy resulting from them—transport, distribution, marketing—resulting in additional losses in our failing economy.
The interests of the cattlemen are indisputably respectable as well as those of the consumers, who, right or wrong, are more than apprehensive in the wake of the Mad Cow tragedy, of the manipulation imposed on animals and on plants, and demand to be protected by their authorities. For example, 72% of Italians are convinced that genetically-modified foods are less healthy and thus don’t want to buy and eat them. Germany has totally banned genetically-modified corn.
I guess we were not the only ones to suggest that a reasonable compromise was accessible and fortunately this is what happened: the Europeans are quadrupling their imports of hormone-free beef, and, in exchange, the US will drop the tripling of duties on Roquefort and the doubling of duties on San Pellegrino.
For this one time that reason prevails, let’s hail the World Trade Organization who acted as an impartial umpire, and our reciprocal leaders, and with due respect, offer them our good offices.
Don’t take it seriously, bien sûr, but would it be so wrong if these big honchos would from time to time listen to other voices?