`U.S. Court Rules in Favor of Spanish Producers Over Table Olive Tariffs - Olive Oil Times

U.S. Court Rules in Favor of Spanish Producers Over Table Olive Tariffs

Jun. 22, 2021
Daniel Dawson

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The United States Court of International Trade has ruled that the argu­ments used by the U.S. Commerce Department as the basis of the 35-per­cent tar­iff it imposed on black Spanish table olive imports in August 2018 are not in accor­dance with law.”

The court’s deci­sion upholds its pre­vi­ous rul­ing that said the Commerce Department’s basis for impos­ing the tar­iffs in the first place had been arbi­trary. The Commerce Department was then given 90 days to file to present new argu­ments.

This deci­sion from the American jus­tice sys­tem could lower the tar­iffs from 35 per­cent to 20 per­cent, which would be a very impor­tant reduc­tion.- Antonio de Mora, sec­re­tary-gen­eral, Asemesa

Judge Gary Katzmann said the new argu­ments once again did not show that sub­si­dies pro­vided to Spanish table olive pro­duc­ers from the European Union and Spanish gov­ern­ment via the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) vio­lated the Tariff Act of 1930.

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For the CAP to be found in vio­la­tion of the Tariff Act, the Commerce Department had to prove that the table olive sec­tor was meant to be the pri­mary ben­e­fi­ciary of CAP sub­si­dies (as opposed to the entire European agri­cul­tural sec­tor). The judge said the Commerce Department had not sat­is­fac­to­rily done so in its lat­est tes­ti­mony.

The Commerce Department also had to prove that demand for olive vari­eties suit­able for the pro­duc­tion of table olives is depen­dent on demand for the table olives. To this point, the judge said that to reach its con­clu­sion based on exist­ing U.S. law and prece­dent, the depart­ment had relied on an imper­mis­si­ble inter­pre­ta­tion” of the law.

The court has now told the Commerce Department to revise the tar­iffs so that the department’s inter­pre­ta­tion of the Tariff Act matches the opin­ion of the court.

The Spanish Association of Table Olive Exporters and Producers (Asemesa), which was one of the plain­tiffs in the case, said that it expects the Commerce Department to reduce the tar­iffs, which would once again allow Spanish table olive pro­duc­ers to com­pete in the lucra­tive U.S. mar­ket.

This deci­sion from the American jus­tice sys­tem could lower the tar­iffs from 35 per­cent to 20 per­cent, which would be a very impor­tant reduc­tion,” Antonio de Mora, Asemesa’s sec­re­tary-gen­eral, said in a press release. Although it is pos­si­ble that the Commerce Department will try to refor­mu­late its argu­ments to adapt them to the judge’s opin­ion, it may also hap­pen that it finally decides to yield and elim­i­nate the anti-sub­sidy tar­iff.”

There are still many vari­ables to con­sider, but we believe that this opin­ion is very favor­able to the inter­ests of the Spanish black olive since both issues have been ruled in our favor in terms of legal inter­pre­ta­tion and not of assess­ment of the facts,” he added.

According to Asemesa, black table olive exports to the U.S. have fallen by 68 per­cent since the tar­iffs were man­dated back in 2018.

Along with a sep­a­rate set of tar­iffs imposed by the U.S. International Trade Commission on green table olive imports, the entire Spanish table olive sec­tor lost an esti­mated €135 mil­lion since 2018, the trade body said.

De Mora said there was fur­ther rea­son for Spanish table olive pro­duc­ers to be opti­mistic as the find­ings by the U.S. court may influ­ence the deci­sion of the World Trade Organization on a sim­i­lar case.

At the same time, [the rul­ing] rep­re­sents very impor­tant sup­port to the process opened by the European Union before the WTO, in which these two argu­ments are also fun­da­men­tal,” De Mora said.

The WTO was set to rule on a sep­a­rate case brought by the E.U. at the end of June, which said the tar­iffs imposed by the Commerce Department vio­lated sev­eral sec­tions of the WTO’s Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 and Anti-Dumping Agreement. Both the E.U. and the U.S. are sig­na­to­ries to all three inter­na­tional agree­ments.

However, due to a case back­log caused by the Covid-19 pan­demic, the WTO announced ear­lier this month that it would not issue its final report on the mat­ter until the end of August 2021.


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