EU says ‘unacceptable’ US tariffs on olives already hurting Spain’s producers
The European commission has said the “simply unacceptable” imposition of high tariffs by the US on Spanish olives is already having a big effect on producers in southern Spain.
This week the US Department of Commerce announced that tariffs ranging from 7.52% to 27.02% would be needed to counteract Spanish olive prices, arguing that the fruits were being sold for 16.88% to 25.5% less than their real value.
A commission spokesman said the preliminary duties were already hitting producers in Andalucía, where olive production “has a very significant economic and social impact”.
He told reporters on Wednesday: “We are also well aware of the possible wider implications of this process and that is why the commission got involved so actively in these proceedings and will continue to do so.”
The US has said its move covers Spanish olives of all colours, shapes and size, pitted and non-pitted. Exports to the US were worth £50.3m in 2017.
Exports of black olives to the US fell 42.4% in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2017, dropping from 6.9m kilograms to 4m, according to Spain’s association of table olive producers and exporters (Asemesa).
“The decision by the US Department of Commerce to impose unreasonably high and prohibitive anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties on Spanish olives is simply unacceptable,” the commission spokesman said. “This is a protectionist measure targeting a high-quality and successful EU product popular with US consumers.”
Spain’s agriculture minister, Luis Planas, said he would raise the matter at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.
“It’s an unfair measure because it has no economic or technical basis and it’s worrying as it could call into question the rules governing international trade,” Planas said on Wednesday.
He added that the tariffs not only affected Spanish producers but could also challenge the common agricultural policy (CAP).
“A unilateral action of this nature cannot go unanswered.”
Spain’s trade, industry and tourism minister would also be raising the issue with the EU trade commission, Planas said.
Antonio de Mora, secretary general of Asemesa, recently called on the EU commission to “defend the sector on the political stage as forcefully as it has defended steel and aluminium”.
“This precedent could mean that any agricultural sector in any country that competes with EU products that receive CAP assistance could ask its government to act like the US is,” De Mora said.
Separately, in a speech in Germany yesterday, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, underlined the EU’s resolve to retaliate against US tariffs. “We can’t let the tariffs on steel and aluminum by the American administration go unanswered,” he said.
Workers shake olives from a tree at a farm near Ronda in Andalucía
▲ The US measures apply to Spanish olives of all colours, shapes and sizes