Copa-Cogeca, the organisations representing European farmers and agri co-operatives, have spoken against the USA’s “protectionist” decision to impose tariffs on Spanish table olives.
The body hopes the recent meeting between the US president, Donald Trump, and European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, will relieve trade tensions.
During their meeting on 26 July Mr Trump Mr Juncker discussed the issue of trade tariffs. In a joint statement they said they would work together towards “zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods”.
Copa-Cogeca welcomed the meeting and said it hoped the USA would remove tariffs for ripe olives.
In June, the US Department of Commerce announced the introduction of tariffs from 7.52% to 27.02%, arguing that these were sold for less than their “fair value”. In 2017 imports of ripe olives from Spain amounted to US $67.6m.
The move resulted in Spanish olives facing total taxes of 34.75% to enter the USA’s market.
Copa and Cogeca secretary general Pekka Pesonen said after the imposition of the tariffs: “We are very disappointed about the way in which this trade dispute is escalating. It will be detrimental to farmers on both sides of the Atlantic and will also deprive USA consumers of quality Spanish produce.”
According to Copa-Cogeca, Spanish imports have already faced additional duties totalling 21.6% since January this year, causing Spanish exports to the US to drop by as much as 42.4% in the first quarter of 2018. The organisation argues that the gap is being replaced by an increase in imports from Morocco (33%), Egypt (50%), and Turkey (82%), rather than by US production.
“We welcome support from the EU Commission and heads of state on this issue. The CAP is non-trade distorting under WTO rules and it is consequently unacceptable to impose such duties. We call on the Commission to take proceedings in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against this unlawful action. The Commission must also work on finding new markets for our quality produce to help offset the economic losses Spanish producers are facing”, said Mr Pesonen.
Esther Herranz MEP, EPP group member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, said: “Among the many similar trading procedures that the US has opened against European exports, this one is especially worrying since the USA is questioning the CAP legislation.
“This measure hits Andalusia in particular, which is heavily penalised by the economic crisis. The increase of the Spanish sector’s competitiveness results from the efforts made by manufactures to reduce costs by means of investments in cutting-edge technology and not as a consequence of the European subsidies.
“It is deeply worrying that the USA is not respecting WTO rules. There is a strong fear that after Spanish olives, the next custom duties of the Trump government may apply to any European sector: French cheeses, Italian wines or German sausages could be targeted next. We have to give a strong response to America’s action and not just turn the other cheek.”