Inside the Final Day of the 107th IOC Council of Members Session

Diplomatic and trade ten­sions loomed large over what was oth­er­wise an unevent­ful con­clu­sion to the 107th ses­sion of the Council of Members meet­ing of the International Olive Council (IOC), which con­cluded today in Buenos Aires. Representatives of each mem­ber nation took turns read­ing out the find­ings of each of the four com­mit­tees, which were closed to

Jun. 21, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

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Diplomatic and trade ten­sions loomed large over what was oth­er­wise an unevent­ful con­clu­sion to the 107th ses­sion of the Council of Members meet­ing of the International Olive Council (IOC), which con­cluded today in Buenos Aires.

I hope this meet­ing achieves our desired goals. Syria rejoin­ing the IOC would be ben­e­fi­cial for the peo­ple and econ­omy of our coun­try.- Syrian del­e­gate to IOC shortly before walk­ing out of the session

Representatives of each mem­ber nation took turns read­ing out the find­ings of each of the four com­mit­tees, which were closed to the press. At the end of the ses­sion, all of the cor­re­spond­ing draft deci­sions were unan­i­mously adopted. 

The diplo­matic ten­sions came to light dur­ing the sta­tus of acces­sions, rat­i­fi­ca­tions of the International Agreement on Olive Oil and Table Olives of 2015 por­tion of the session. 

Syria, which is one of three nations in the process of acced­ing to the IOC, has for­mally requested to rejoin the pay-to-play orga­ni­za­tion after being sus­pended due to out­stand­ing debts. 

Upon invi­ta­tion, the Syrian del­e­gate addressed the ses­sion, urg­ing their appli­ca­tion to rejoin the orga­ni­za­tion to be expe­dited. At the time of writ­ing, not all of the del­e­gates’ names had been made avail­able to the press. 

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I hope this meet­ing achieves our desired goals,” the Syrian del­e­gate said. Syria rejoin­ing the IOC would be ben­e­fi­cial for the peo­ple and econ­omy of our country.” 

According to the del­e­gate, Syria pro­duced between 150 and 175 tonnes of olive oil last year and the olive oil sec­tor makes up about five to nine per­cent of the country’s agri­cul­tural income. 

Syria joined the IOC in 1997 and remained a mem­ber until it was sus­pended in 2015 for fail­ing to ful­fill its finan­cial oblig­a­tion. The Syrian del­e­gate blamed its lack of pay­ment on a finan­cial cri­sis caused by inter­na­tional sanctions. 

Syrian gov­ern­ment offi­cials and enti­ties are cur­rently under sanc­tion from the United Nations, European Union and the United States, among oth­ers, for their role in a civil war in which the gov­ern­ment has been accused of numer­ous human rights vio­la­tions and war crimes. 

Once the Syrian del­e­gate had fin­ished speak­ing, the Turkish del­e­gate imme­di­ately requested the floor. She said that Turkey, which has not had diplo­matic ties with Syria since 2011, unequiv­o­cally opposed Syria’s application. 

Daniel Dawson for Olive Oil Times

We are opposed to Syria’s reac­ces­sion to the coun­cil,” the Turkish del­e­gate said. She later told Olive Oil Times that she could not dis­close the rea­sons for Turkey’s oppo­si­tion. The Syrian del­e­gates left the meet­ing soon after this episode and did not return. 

Albania and Iran are the other two coun­tries in the process of acces­sion. Albania has sub­mit­ted its for­mal appli­ca­tion and, along with those of Syria, its acces­sion con­di­tions will be dis­cussed at the IOC’s meet­ing that is sched­uled for September in Madrid. 

Meanwhile, Iran’s par­lia­ment has approved the treaty and already paid its €26,085 con­tri­bu­tion fee. 

The par­lia­ment of Iran has announced its invest­ment in the IOC,” Mehdi Karimi, Iran’s del­e­gate, said. 

During the Economic and Promotion Committee’s report, the European Union del­e­gate expressed his con­cerns about the United States’ trade sanc­tions against Spain. The del­e­gate said that the anti-dump­ing inves­ti­ga­tion of Spanish black olives into the United States has already led to a 41 per­cent decrease in exports of the product. 

According to the del­e­gate, who addressed the ses­sion in Spanish, Spain does not accept the tar­iffs and will appeal them to the World Trade Organization. The tar­iffs will be for­mally approved by the United States at the end of July. 

Separately, a European Commission spokesman con­demned the American tar­iffs ear­lier this week in Brussels, label­ing them pro­tec­tion­ist and unfounded. 

The deci­sion by the United States Department of Commerce to impose unrea­son­ably high and pro­hib­i­tive duties anti-sub­sidy and anti-dump­ing duties on Spanish olives is sim­ply unac­cept­able,” a Commission spokesman told Reuters. This is a pro­tec­tion­ist mea­sure tar­get­ing a high-qual­ity and suc­cess­ful EU prod­uct pop­u­lar with US consumers.” 

Other top­ics dis­cussed at the ses­sion included the 2019 IOC bud­get, boost­ing online sales, spon­sor­ing a Southern Hemisphere com­pe­ti­tion for small pro­duc­ers (those who make less than 150 liters of olive oil each year) and cre­at­ing a more uni­form sys­tem for estab­lish­ing chem­i­cal and organolep­tic qual­i­ties of olive oil across mem­ber nations. 

The Chemistry and Standardization Committee dis­cussed the stan­dard­iza­tion of qual­ity assur­ance con­trols and com­mis­sioned more stud­ies on the nutri­tional and health ben­e­fits of olive oil. 

The Turkish del­e­gate fur­ther advo­cated for the mem­ber nations hav­ing uni­form cus­toms pro­ce­dures for con­trol­ling the qual­ity of imported olive oil. She also urged the IOC to take a more active role in medi­at­ing dis­putes between mem­ber countries. 

The IOC should play a more active role in arbi­tra­tion and more of the onus of qual­ity con­trol should be on the import­ing coun­try,” she said. 

Meanwhile, the Advisory Committee had ana­lyzed issues per­tain­ing to organolep­tic test­ing at a meet­ing held ear­lier this year in Amman, Jordan. The com­mit­tee con­cluded: imple­men­ta­tion of organolep­tic test results does not offer enough legal cer­tain­ties to coun­tries, specif­i­cally in trade.” 

In Spain, both the National Association of Industrial Packers and Edible Oil Refiners (Anierac) and the Spanish Association of the Olive Oil Exporting Industry and Commerce (Asoliva), have voiced sim­i­lar concerns. 

The com­mit­tee said it had made rec­om­men­da­tions, which were adopted at the end of the ses­sion. The details of these rec­om­men­da­tions have not yet been made public. 

The ses­sion wound down with an oppor­tu­nity for observers to address to the IOC mem­bers. Representatives from Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Peru, the United States and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture all thanked the coun­cil for invit­ing them to attend. 

Brazil’s del­e­gate con­cluded the meet­ing by enthu­si­as­ti­cally announc­ing that they were begin­ning the process of join­ing the IOC. 

Brazil is tak­ing the nec­es­sary mea­sures to become a mem­ber of the IOC,” he said. It’s of great impor­tance for Brazil to become a mem­ber of this council.”


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