Sectors of the U.S. agricultural industry are expressing a measure of disappointment in the terms of the recently passed Tans-Pacific Trade agreement (TPP).
Kimberly Houlding, president of the American Olive Oil Producers Association (AOOPA) testified at a hearing last week that the TPP “should have been the beginning of a forum of New World olive oil producing countries,” and that it should have been the jumping-off point for addressing the issues faced by the industry in the U.S., Australia, Chile, Mexico, and New Zealand.
We are concerned and disappointed that this agreement may be missing a major opportunity to promote transparency and effective quality standards within the TPP countries.
“Despite U.S. industry efforts,” she said, “the agreement’s ‘technical barriers to trade’ chapter does not include olive oil in the annex directing countries to form sector-specific groups to address standards, labeling and packaging for wine and spirits, cosmetics and other products.”
Houlding cited in testimony before the United States International Trade Commission the recent ’60 Minutes’ segment which highlighted the health hazards of adulterated olive oil before an estimated 12 million American viewers of the program. “That is a frightening thought given one expert in this story who estimated that 75 to 80 percent of the extra virgin olive oil exported from Italy to U.S. supermarket shelves is fraudulent,” said Houlding, referring to ‘Extra Virginity’ author, Tom Mueller, who was interviewed for the segment.
Victoria Guida reported in Politico on January 15 that Houlding asserted the TPP offered the opportunity to form a U.S.-based group that would provide counterbalance to the International Olive Council that represents Europe’s olive oil trade.
It is still possible that a provision might be added to provide for the establishment of ad hoc working groups whose purpose would be to address standards and regulatory issues, which continue to be an overall concern for the olive oil industry as a whole. According to USTR spokesman Matt McAlvanah, “TPP’s [Technical Barriers to Trade] chapter provides the opportunity to work on additional sector specific initiatives, and we look forward to further discussions with the industry on this topic.”