With a key European trade official in the U.S. this week for inaugural talks with the Bush Administration, an American agricultural coalition today called upon the European Union (EU) to take a fresh approach to US-EU trade relations by reversing its protectionist policies regarding beef and banana imports, including newly proposed illegalities in the banana regime. The group is insisting that Europe conform its trade policies to World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. Pascal Lamy, EU Trade Commissioner, arrives in the U.S. today to meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and others.

The coalition said these talks will send an important signal about Europe’s willingness to alter trade policies that have been declared illegal by multiple international trade panels and to work with the U.S. in building a global consensus in support of a new round of WTO trade talks later this year. The group, which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Meat Institute, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and Chiquita Brands International, and has the support of a broad array of agricultural interests, released the following statement:

    “With the start of a new U.S. administration, the EU has a real opportunity to improve trans-Atlantic trade relations by ending its protectionist policies on agricultural products and abiding by international trade laws. EU adherence to WTO rules would also shore up confidence in the effectiveness of the multilateral trading system.

    “Every nation has domestic political interests to consider in matters of international trade. But the world’s trade rules were designed to promote the important global interest of increasing fair trade. By failing to honor their obligations, the Europeans are undermining confidence in the multilateral trading system at the very time efforts are underway to launch new negotiations. The EU is severely harming the cause of free and fair trade.”

To help ensure EU compliance, the coalition has called upon the Bush Administration to implement the “carousel” provisions of the Trade and Development Act of 2000. That law requires the U.S. to rotate the products on its retaliatory tariff list in ways that maximize the likelihood of compliance with WTO rules. Although the law was enacted on May 18, 2000 and required such rotation by November 2000, the Clinton Administration never implemented it.

During the 2000 presidential campaign and following the election, President Bush and his Administration have frequently spoken out about the need, “to vigorously enforce existing trade laws.” The EU’s lack of compliance in the beef and bananas cases has led to increasing frustration in Congress and the business community over the EU’s reluctance to abide by the laws of the world’s multilateral trade system.