March 13, 2009

U.S., European trade war starts cooking

The stage is set and the first volley has been fired in a U.S.-European trade war, which began with a complaint over U.S. beef.

The European Union has banned U.S. beef imports, claiming the meat contains hormones that are a health risk. In retaliation, the United States has added tariffs to 45 European food products, in line with a World Trade Organization ruling in October that permitted the United States to do so, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

As a consequence, the price U.S. gourmands pay for some European chocolate bars, truffles, San Pellegrino mineral water, Roquefort cheese and other products will rise.

Although former U.S. President George Bush made the retaliatory measure one of his last acts before leaving office, President Barack Obama hasn't signaled he will change the directive, in spite of protests from Europe, the Tribune said.

The tariff, which starts March 23, is a robust 100 percent, which could effectively double the price of Roquefort cheese made in France.

The price for Roquefort in the United States is between $20 and $40 a pound, the newspaper said. The tariff is going to be the death of Roquefort, said cheese buyer Jeff Babcock at European Imports Ltd., in Chicago.