The European Commission has said it will stand up for Spanish black olive producers if the United States slaps anti-dumping tariffs on the €65 million export trade, amid fears by EU farmers that tariffs on other products may follow.
The United States Department of Commerce (DOC) launched an investigation on 21 June into unfair competition from Spanish producers, following a petition from Californian olive growers. They complained that Spanish olives were being sold at lower prices in the US than on Spain’s domestic market.
The DOC’s decision will hinge on whether it considers subsidies under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to be trade distorting. EU authorities and farmers’ groups say the practice is in line with World Trade Organisation rules.
“The European Commission has registered as an interested party in these investigations and is providing the affected Spanish producers with support and assistance required in the course of the proceedings,” a Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV on Friday (25 August).
If US investigators rule that Spanish producers have an unfair advantage, anti-dumping measures could be readied by mid-September and fully implemented by the end of November.
The EU association of farmers and agri-cooperatives, Copa and Cogeca, warned that such a ruling would set a “dangerous precedent” for EU agri-food exports and could lead to further attacks on exports from sectors supported by the CAP.
Commission hits back
“As we always do when a foreign country launches investigations against European products, the European Commission has been closely monitoring the US anti-dumping and anti-subsidy proceedings against imports of ripe olives from Spain and is intervening to defend the rights of the Spanish producers,” the Commission spokesperson said.
A Commission source, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the bulk of EU agricultural support measures qualifies under WTO rules as ‘green box’ measures, meaning they are decoupled from production and have no impact on the functioning of the market.
“Given that these schemes are not trade-distorting, have no effect on production and are not product specific, there are no grounds for WTO anti-subsidy measures,” the source added.
This is a point Copa and Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen has also been keen to make: “Support under the CAP is authorised under WTO rules and consequently has not been found to distort competition.”