The UK government, the Scottish government and the European Commission (EC) have all welcomed the lifting of the 16-year ban.
A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said: “We are working with markets across the world to open the doors to British food and drink and are now one step closer to striking a deal with the US that will give our farmers access to a very lucrative export market.”
The Scottish government was more fulsome in its welcome. Richard Lochhead, rural affairs secretary described the news as “a massive breakthrough”.
'Off the menu in the USA for far too long'
Officials in Edinburgh had been pushing hard for the lifting of the ban for a number of years, he added. “I’m delighted that these long standing trade barriers have been lifted. Scotch Beef has been off the menu in the USA for far too long and the re-opening of an extremely lucrative market is a tremendous opportunity to expand our beef exports and one which I am keen for the industry to grasp.
“We look forward to the USA agreeing to the resumption of imports of other iconic Scottish products such Scotch lamb and haggis, and this deal on beef may well be an important step forward to achieving that.”
The EC also welcomed the decision but criticised its “late” arrival. “The re-opening [of the US market] is a welcome, albeit late, step to abolish the unjustified ban and to re-establish normal trading conditions,” it said in a statement.
The US market had been closed to all EU beef, including deboned beef, since 1997, when the US introduced import restrictions on beef, sheep and goats following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis.
The EU claimed the US ban had gone beyond the standards of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). For example, deboned skeletal muscle beef is safe and can be freely traded from all countries, according to OIE standards.
“The EU expects that remaining import restrictions on EU sheep and goat products will be lifted soon as well and the US import conditions be fully aligned with international standards shortly,” said the EU statement.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) said the lifting of the ban was another boost for trade talks between the EU and US.
Charles Sercombe, NFU livestock board chairman, said: “The beef industry has gone through a number of difficult years but a lot of work is being done to develop export markets around the world and I believe we can be optimistic about our market prospects in the future.
“We now need equivalent rule changes on TSEs [transmissible spongiform encephalopathies] in sheep and goats to reflect international standards and we hope this could be agreed early next year.”