Select Committee on European Scrutiny Twenty-Fourth Report


IMPORTS OF HIGH-QUALITY BEEF


(23294)
6619/02
COM(02) 94

Draft Council Regulation opening an autonomous quota for the import of high-quality beef.


Legal base:Article 133 EC; qualified majority voting
Document originated:21 February 2002
Forwarded to the Council: 21 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament: 21 March 2002
Department:Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration: EM of 13 March 2002 and SEM of 15 April 2002
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: Shortly
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared



Background

  12.1  The beef regime under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) provides for reduced tariff quotas to be opened, and, under the agreement on agriculture concluded as part of the Uruguay Round, the Community undertook to open an annual tariff quota for 58,100 tonnes of high-quality ("Hilton") beef. Of this quantity, 28,000 tonnes is allocated to Argentina, 11,500 tonnes to the United States and Canada, 7,000 tonnes to Australia, 6,300 tonnes to Uruguay, 5,000 tonnes to Brazil, and 300 tonnes to New Zealand.

The current proposal

  12.2  Although we had not at that stage seen an official text, we were informed in an Explanatory Memorandum of 13 March 2002 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) that the Commission had proposed that this annual quota should be increased by 1,000 tonnes. The Minister also said that the Government supported this proposal, which, in the context of annual Community beef production of around 8 million tonnes, was unlikely to disturb the market, or have a significant effect on the UK beef sector. However, as there was no indication why the Commission had made this proposal, we decided to defer any consideration of it until such an explanation had been provided.

Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 15 April 2002

  12.3  In his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 15 April 2002, the Minister explains that World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules no longer permit the allocation of quotas to member countries, and that, since the establishment of the 58,100 tonne quota, the Community had taken to opening quotas which in principle could be available to all suppliers ("erga omnes"), but subject to quality conditions which effectively restricted them to a single supplier. He says that Paraguay had not, to date, benefited from such a quota, mainly because it joined the WTO after the initial negotiations on its distribution, but that it had, in the Commission's view, repeatedly demonstrated its suitability to supply such beef. It had therefore become increasingly difficult in terms of the Community's relations with third countries to exclude it from the quota, and the Commission had therefore undertaken to make this proposal, given also the strategic importance of making such an offer in the forthcoming negotiations on Mercosur, and the role played by Paraguay at the WTO session in Doha.

Conclusion

  12.4  We have noted this explanation, and are now clearing the document.



 
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