§ Ms Quin
I represented the UK at the Agriculture Council meeting in Luxembourg on 17 April.
The Council reached political agreement by qualified majority (only Denmark expressing dissent) on a Community wide system of rules for the compulsory labelling of beef. The first stage of the scheme—providing for most beef sold to consumers to show the member state where it was slaughtered and cut/deboned and the approval numbers of the relevant establishments—should come into effect on 1 September 2000. The second stage, coming into effect on 1 January 2002, will additionally require labelling by reference to country of origin. I welcomed this agreement which will ensure British consumers can look forward to clearer, more informative labelling on beef. The agreement will now be put to the European Parliament for its consideration with a view to adoption of a Regulation before 1 September.
Commissioner Franz Fischler reported the latest developments in the WTO agriculture negotiations in Geneva. Along with many other Ministers, I welcomed the start of negotiations and encouraged the Commission to continue its efforts to facilitate the launch of a new Round of comprehensive trade negotiations and to continue pursuing a constructive line in the agriculture negotiations in accordance with the Council mandate agreed last autumn.
Under Other Business, I raised concerns about the impact on British millers of the operation of a WTO concession permitting the import of maize from third countries into Spain and Portugal at reduced duty rates. Originally intended to cover maize for animal feed, an increasing proportion was being imported as flint maize which is used for processing into breakfast cereals. This was distorting the single market to the detriment of millers in the UK and other northern member states. Commissioner Fischler undertook to try to resolve this problem with the main exporting countries in time for the next marketing year.