US attack on Spanish olive imports is ‘serious’, EU farmers warn Commission

Copa and Cogeca consider it unacceptable that the main EU agri-food export market - the USA - can impose protectionist measures against European products without justification. [English Rose247/Flickr]

The US authorities are readying anti-dumping measures on imports of Spanish black table olives as of September, setting a “dangerous” precedent for CAP-subsided EU agricultural products, European farmers have warned.

In late June, the US Coalition for Fair Trade in Ripe Olives, which represents the nation’s ripe olive industry, filed a petition asking the US Department of Commerce and the US International Trade Commission to open an investigation into imports of Spanish ripe olives.

Particularly, the Coalition asked the competent US authorities to impose anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of black olives from Spain, arguing that such imports are performing at low prices and are being subsidised under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“Dumped and subsidised Spanish ripe olives are severely impacting our industry,” said Tim Carter, CEO of Bell-Carter Foods Inc, quoted by USA Today.

Commission urged to take action

Alarmed by the American plans, EU association of farmers and agri-cooperatives Copa-Cogeca sent a letter to Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan on Tuesday (25 July) warning against USA plans saying that it amounts to protectionism.

Quality schemes help EU producers break new markets

The promotion of geographical indications (GI) has helped EU products attract new emerging markets which seek quality food. However, Europol warns that fake GI products are on the rise across the EU and policymakers should not disregard the protection of intellectual rights.

Copa-Cogeca claimed that the executive should take the matter seriously and avoid setting a precedent.

“Copa and Cogeca consider it unacceptable that the main EU agri-food export market – the USA – can impose protectionist measures against our products without justification,” the association’s Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said, adding that this could set a “dangerous precedent” for other production sectors.

In its letter, Copa-Cogeca stressed that the US administration was planning to impose the measures against the imports as early as September, even before the investigation led by the Department of Commerce is concluded.

“Copa and Cogeca argue that the only reason Spanish producers can produce black table olives so competitively is due to their efforts to reduce production costs, combined with investment in key issues like quality technology,” the letter read, adding that US trade restrictions would place thousands of jobs in Spain at risk.

Table olives do not qualify for emergency aid from the EU in the case of market disruption.

The Spanish association of table olive exporters (Asemesa) also reacted to the news and has already contacted several Spanish government officials about the case.

Asemesa argues that the accusations are groundless and that Spanish companies operate in accordance with the EU and the World Trade Organisation commonly agreed rules.

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