In a parting shot for the Bush Administration, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative tripled the tariff on imported Roquefort cheese last Friday. This action was in retaliation for the European Union's decision not to allow importation of American beef treated with hormones. The timeline is a little sketchy to me -- the EU ban was first put in place in 1989 and subsequently struck down by the World Trade Organization in 1998 as being inconsistent with WTO rules requiring that such bans be supported by scientific findings. Later in 2003, the WTO agreed with the EU that the science did support the ban. At any rate, it's not really clear to me why the change in duties now.
Reactions from the French -- government, cheese producers, and common citizens alike -- were predictably outraged. The stiff duties pretty much bring an end to the profitability of importing Roquefort to the U.S. But since the U.S. market only accounts for 2 percent of Roquefort sales worldwide, the outrage seems to be mostly symbolic and just another nail in George Bush's coffin. As for American lovers of the bleu -- you'll just have to settle for Maytag, Saga Blue, or Stilton.