EU says ‘un­ac­cept­able’ US tar­iffs on olives al­ready hurt­ing Spain’s pro­duc­ers

The Guardian - - FINANCIAL - Daniel Bof­fey Brus­sels Sam Jones Madrid

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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: JORGE GUER­RERO/AFP GETTY IM­AGES

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

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