`European Commission Calls Proposed Olive Oil Marketing Order 'Unfair' - Olive Oil Times

European Commission Calls Proposed Olive Oil Marketing Order 'Unfair'

By Julie Butler
Nov. 28, 2012 11:43 UTC

European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht

Importers will suf­fer unfair delays and costs if the pro­posed United States mar­ket­ing order for olive oil is applied to them, European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht says.

Responding on behalf of the European Commission to a ques­tion in the European Parliament, the Belgian politi­cian said the com­mis­sion is mon­i­tor­ing debate on the pos­si­ble mar­ket­ing order, which would impose a new stan­dard def­i­n­i­tion, test­ing meth­ods and label­ing for olive oil in the US.”

The US rep­re­sents, by far, the EU’s most impor­tant export mar­ket for EU olive oil exporters. Should a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) mar­ket­ing order apply to imported olive oil, this would cre­ate unfair delays and addi­tional costs for importers” he said in a writ­ten response on November 20.

The Commission is work­ing in close coop­er­a­tion with rel­e­vant Member States and the International Olive Council to sup­port the inter­ests of the EU exporters.”

The issue has been raised sev­eral times with the rel­e­vant US author­i­ties, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the House, the Senate, USDA and the US Trade Representative.

This has also been raised at polit­i­cal level, in the frame­work of the transat­lantic dia­logue. The Commission will con­tinue to mon­i­tor the debate with the aim of pre­vent­ing any neg­a­tive impact on the EU exports to the US” he said.

Several ques­tions raised in European Parliament

De Gucht was reply­ing to a writ­ten ques­tion last month from a Spanish mem­ber of the European Parliament, María Auxiliadora Correa Zamora, who asked what the EC plans to do about the threat of non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers” being imposed on EU olive oil exporters.

Similar ques­tions have since been asked by other Members of Parliament, includ­ing fel­low Spaniard Francisco Sosa Wagner, who on October 24 wrote that the mar­ket­ing order pro­pos­als include hold­ing back the oil for days in order to test the entire prod­uct,” and would breach inter­na­tional trade rules.

This mea­sure would pose a risk to the qual­ity, as well as add to costs and to other export prob­lems” he said.

US a key mar­ket for Spain, Portugal

And in a November 12 ques­tion, Portuguese MEP Nuno Melo also called on the EC to act on the pos­si­ble restric­tion on olive oil imports that is being con­sid­ered in the US through the pub­li­ca­tion of a mar­ket­ing order.”

The US is one of the largest mar­kets for Spain and the sixth largest for Portugal, which in the first eight months of 2012 shipped €2.9 mil­lion ($3.7m) worth of olive oil there.

This restric­tion will par­tic­u­larly affect European exports, since it costs Europeans more to place their olive oil on the American mar­ket” he said.

Concerns about costs, retal­i­a­tion

US Senator Charles E. Schumer, who has called on the US Department of Agriculture not to adopt the mar­ket­ing order, said in May that it would add $7,000 in test­ing costs to each of (New York-based importer and bot­tler) Sovena’s ship­ments.

But in its report on the US Farm Bill, the US House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture said that if the change goes ahead, the Committee expects the USDA, in con­junc­tion with the US Trade Representative’s office, to ensure the mar­ket­ing order is imple­mented in a man­ner that will not cause undue trade dis­rup­tion.”

However, the report also included under Additional Views” com­ments by com­mit­tee mem­bers Chris Gibson, Tim Johnson and Randy Hultgren on their fears that impos­ing a non-tar­iff trade bar­rier to imports of olive oil…will invite retal­i­a­tion from the EU and oth­ers against US agri­cul­tural exports.”

The over­due US farm bill stalled in Congress before the recent elec­tion. If when even­tu­ally passed it includes a pro­vi­sion to include olive oil under the Agricultural Adjustment Act, then imports will also be sub­ject to any national mar­ket­ing order enforced by the USDA.


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