The European Union missed a Jan. 11 midnight deadline of complying with a World Trade Organization panel ruling in the challenge brought by the United States against the European Union over its agricultural biotech policies. U.S. Trade Representative spokeswoman Gretchen Hamel said USTR's goal "is to normalize trade in biotech products, not to impose trade sanctions on EU goods." However, after four and a half years of trade disputing, the "patience of U.S. stakeholders is close to exhaustion," she added.
During the coming months, the United States will periodically evaluate EU progress toward normalizing trade against a set of benchmarks and timelines, a statement from USTR said. To a large extent, these performance measures are set out in the EU's own laws. If the United States decides to pursue WTO proceedings on the EU's compliance, the United States would file a formal consultation request with the EU, followed by a request for the establishment of a WTO compliance panel.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, says the failure to approve these products is based on politics, not science. "Unfortunately, the situation appears to be going from bad to worse," he said in response to Friday's move by France to ban a biotech corn variety already cultivated in the European Union. Previously a WTO panel found that a similar ban imposed by Austria was violated WTO rules and USTR expects the European Commission to lift this ban as well.