Roquefort tax dropped, Minn. congressman pleased

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Minnesota U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar applauds last week's provisional agreement between the U.S. and the European Union dropping steep import taxes on certain European specialty foods, including Roquefort cheese, in exchange for the EU allowing more hormone-free U.S. beef in.

Oberstar, who represents Minnesota's 8th District, has a special place in his heart for the French cheese, a type of blue cheese native to South France. Hot Dish reported on Oberstar's concerns in March, not long after the congressman penned a letter to President Barack Obama seeking dismissal of the "mean-spirited" tax.

In response to his wish being granted, Oberstar says, "This is good news. I am a strong supporter of 'buy American' and I believe that measures must be taken to protect U.S. industries and products from unfairly subsidized foreign imports."

"However, Roquefort cheese does not fall into that category. It is a product that is made in a small French town that does not have an identical American counterpart. The people in this community should not have been unfairly targeted and included in a broader trade dispute over which they had no control."

The Bush administration had imposed a prohibatory 300 percent tax on the cheese shortly before leaving the White House in retaliation for an EU ban on hormone-fed U.S. beef. The Obama administration met the EU halfway, offering to drop the import tax and forget about the issue of hormone-fed beef if it would instead expand its import of hormone-free beef. The EU was amenable.

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