Hundreds Protest Proposed Olive Tariffs in Spain

The tariffs on all types of olives are set to be discussed later this week and, if approved, come into force later this month.

By Daniel Dawson
Jul. 9, 2018 11:22 UTC

Hundreds of olive farm­ers, oil pro­duc­ers and busi­ness rep­re­sen­ta­tives gath­ered in front of the United States con­sulate in Sevilla, Spain last Thursday to protest pro­posed American tar­iffs on Spanish olives.

We reit­er­ate our absolute rejec­tion of the fix­a­tion of any type of tar­iff on table olives.- Rodrigo Sánchez Haro, Minister of Agriculture, Andalusia

The pro­tes­tors gath­ered to denounce the planned tar­iffs, call­ing them unjust” and abu­sive” as well as rais­ing con­cerns about their poten­tially dis­as­trous reper­cus­sions for the region’s exports and employ­ment.

The tar­iffs are set to be dis­cussed by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) this week and, if the com­mis­sion decides to enact them, will come into force later this month. In 2017, Spanish olive exports to the US totaled about $67 mil­lion.

We are very dis­ap­pointed with the US Department of Commerce’s deci­sion to impose anti-sub­sidy and anti-dump­ing duties on Spanish table olive imports, espe­cially since the prod­uct is very pop­u­lar amongst US con­sumers,” José María Castilla, a lob­by­ist for the national wing of the Association of Young Farmers (ASAJA), said. It is unjus­ti­fied and dis­pro­por­tion­ate and it goes against our com­mon agri­cul­tural pol­icy.”

Miguel López, the Secretary-General of COAG Andalusia, said that 8,000 jobs are directly at risk and two mil­lion more are indi­rectly at risk because of the pro­posed tar­iffs. Already, he said, Agro Sevilla has laid off some of their employ­ees.

To drive the point home and put a human face on these lay­offs, López invited a young man, iden­ti­fied only as the son of Raquel, up onto the stage dur­ing the protest.

Because of the tar­iffs and after six years in the com­pany, they have left him unem­ployed and he has had to leave Andalusia to find work,” López said. He had a life project and every­thing has been bro­ken.”

López insisted that Spanish olive pro­duc­ers are in line with European Union and World Trade Organization rules and called for the European Union and Spanish gov­ern­ment to defend the sec­tor from what he termed arbi­trary” tar­iffs.

Faced with this atti­tude that [U.S. President Donald] Trump is main­tain­ing against all imports, and because this vio­lates all inter­na­tional agree­ments, the European Commission has to posi­tion and stand up for itself already,” he said. We also have to be defended.”

The European Commission has already con­demned the tar­iffs on Spanish olives with a spokesper­son label­ing them pro­tec­tion­ist” and promis­ing action from the European Trade Commission.

The pro­posed tar­iffs stem from anti-dump­ing com­plaints lodged by two California com­pa­nies (Bell-Carter Foods, Inc and Musco Family Olive Co) last year. They have been com­pounded by anti-sub­sidy charges from the US Department of Commerce, which argues that Spanish olive farm­ers and pack­agers also ben­e­fit from unfair sub­si­dies”.

If the USITC decides to rat­ify the pro­posed tar­iffs, which most trade observers believe is highly likely, then import duties on Spanish olives will rise up to 27 per­cent on July 24. The tar­iffs are said to cover all types of Spanish olives, includ­ing all shapes, sizes and col­ors; pit­ted and unpit­ted; and whole, sliced, minced and wedged.

The Department of Commerce will ensure a full and fair assess­ment of the facts, and, if the rules are being bro­ken, will act swiftly to halt any unfair trade prac­tices,” US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said. The United States is com­mit­ted to a free, fair and rec­i­p­ro­cal trade with Spain.”

Antonio de Mora, the Secretary-General of the Spanish Association of Exporters and Industrialists of Table Olives (ASEMA) believes that facts will trump feel­ings and instead of attend­ing the protests, has been hard at work prepar­ing a legal case against the tar­iffs.

ASEMESA is prepar­ing its defense in con­tact with the national and European admin­is­tra­tions, with the assur­ance that the argu­ments on which these accu­sa­tions are based are false, for which rea­son we are gath­er­ing all the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion and evi­dence,” he said.


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