Harbor of La Spezia, Liguria, Italy

Last September, the European Commission proposed an emergency measure to increase Tunisia’s zero-duty tariff quota of olive oil. Now, as the measure is pending imminent formal adoption, the Commission affirms that it should not affect the EU’s olive oil market.

This measure should benefit the Tunisian economy and be a concrete demonstration of the EU support for Tunisia.- Committee on International Trade

This assessment has been made based on market data that indicates the additional quota of duty-free olive oil from Tunisia will not impact EU production, and will instead be absorbed by the needs of the market.

The temporary increase will allow Tunisia to export 35,000 metric tons of duty-free olive oil annually to the EU for two years (both in 2016 and 2017). Meanwhile, the new quota will not be made available until the existing duty-free tariff rate quota of 56,700 tons has been fulfilled. Additionally, this measure will not increase the overall volume of olive oil imported, but rather discount duties on already existing imports.

The aim of the proposed plan is to serve as a temporary aid to Tunisia, whose economy has faced especially difficult times following recent terror attacks.

According to the European Parliament Committee on International Trade, “This measure should benefit the Tunisian economy and be a concrete demonstration of the EU support for Tunisia.”

Given that olive oil is Tunisia’s main agricultural export, this emergency plan could heavily benefit their olive oil sector, which provides direct and indirect employment to more than one million people and makes up 20 percent of the country’s agricultural industry.

The matter was set to be discussed further during a plenary debate, and will be followed by another vote. Ultimately, however, the European Members of Parliament already endorsed the measure in January.

It was following that January vote that Marielle de Sarnez, a spokesperson for the Parliament, assured the industry that the measure isn’t without conditions: “I know that for colleagues from some countries, the question of olive oil is a sensitive one. I want to reassure them that the amendment we adopted provides that, if after a year we realize that there is indeed a problem, the Commission may then take steps to rectify the imbalance.”

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