Spain and the United States still have an open trade conflict in the pipeline, which tiptoed through the last NATO summit held in Madrid, for which Spanish black olive exports endured a 35% tariff since August 2018 (20 % only for ‘antidumping’ after complaints from the Californian olive sector and another 15% as compensation for the aid received by Spanish producers from the Common Agricultural Policy). In this context, the Minister of Agriculture Luis Planas has demanded that Brussels resort again to the World Trade Organization (WTO) so that the administration of Democrat Joe Biden withdraws the tariffs considered illegal by a ruling from this body in November of the year past. As, he has recalled, Planas the United States allowed the ruling, but has not complied by eliminating the tariffs.
Meanwhile, Spanish exporters accumulate losses that already reach 220 million euros, according to estimates from the Table Olive Exporters Association (Asemesa), and that has caused the collapse of exports to the United States, the main foreign market for black olives until then, to the detriment of competing countries such as Morocco, Greece, Portugal and Turkey. The bleeding has its counterpart in the US courts where the Table Olive Exporters Association (Asemesa) has spent some 15 million euros in litigation with the US Secretary of Commerce with two partial victories and a final ruling contrary to the Spanish interests. Right now, according to the general secretary of Asemana for Information Antonio de Mora, “the judge changed his criteria and issued a sentence contrary to the two previous ones.” In this sense, it is being appealed before the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which is expected to rule on the merits of the matter “at the end of this year.”
Earlier this month, the European Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, and his US counterpart, Gina Raimondo, held a meeting on this issue. Dombrovskis said on Twitter that they had exchanged “points of view” on Spanish olives without further details. In any case, Planas pointed out this Monday that “it is a Spanish and European issue to the extent that there is talk of the transfer of aid from the CAP to the whole of the agricultural sector”, the minister highlighted.
The example of the Airbus case
In this sense, De Mora has explained that his priority is for “the European Union to move the process in the WTO and call for consultations with the United States, which has no intention of eliminating tariffs or negotiating to force them to do so through sanctions such as in the Airbus case. That is to say, that Brussels forces the convening of a new panel that verifies the non-compliance of the Americans and opens the door to sanctions. Or what is the same as opening up the trade dispute with sanctions from the European side (new tariffs).
The United States imposed these tariffs due to what was probably alleged dumping by Spanish exporters of black olives Common Agrarian Policy (PAC). Something that Brussels has denied, since for the community authorities it is decoupled aid that is allowed by the WTO. This has given the reason to Brussels.
Investigations to Spanish companies
In parallel, the US authorities have been investigating different Spanish exporters through the so-called “administrative reviews”. The participating companies are chosen by the US trade authorities (many times at the request of the Californian producers), some can offer voluntarily, a method that in the words of Mora (Asemesa) costs them 2 million euros per year and, through which , some companies have managed to reduce the tariff by between 7 and 10%. “Only the investigated companies benefit, but not the rest. Our goal at Asemesa is to achieve the total elimination of the tariff and return to exporting as we did before 20218,” he explained in statements to this medium.
Another fear of Spanish exporters is the loss of position in the US market, where they were leaders until 2018, and that with the tariffs they are losing in favor of other countries such as Turkey and Greece. In this sense, the general secretary of Asemesa has pointed out, this can “strengthen” them in order to stand up to Spanish olives in other markets.