USA to impose 25% tariffs on  packaged Spanish olive oil

The USA has won approval from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to impose tariffs on US$7.5bn worth of EU goods, including some Spanish olive oils.

Certain types of table olives from France and Spain were also on the list of agricultural goods facing 25% tariffs from 18 October, Olive Oil Times reported.

Olive oils from France, Greece, Italy and Portugal would be unaffected.

The US Trade Representative Office (USTR) would submit its list of EU goods to the WTO on 14 October for approval.

US imports of Spanish virgin and non-virgin olive oil in all of its fractions in containers of less than 18kg would be subject to the tariff.

The tariffs were the result of a 15-year-long trade dispute over EU subsidies to European aerospace corporation Airbus, which the WTO ruled were improper and could hurt rival American manufacturer Boeing.

The USTR initially wanted to impose 100% tariffs on US$15bn worth of goods but the WTO ruled that the US could only impose countermeasures on half this amount.

Joseph Profaci, the executive director of the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), said while the 25% tariff on packaged Spanish olive oil would still have an adverse impact on importers and consumers, the USTR decision not to impose the full 100% tariff was a good sign for the industry.

“I am optimistic that the USTR decision is a good faith indication of its desire to negotiate a settlement with the EU and we will be doing what we can to facilitate such a settlement to get all olive oil off the list.”

In addition, the USTR decision not to impose tariffs on any olive oils imported from France, Greece, Italy or Portugal, nor on bulk olive oils imported from Spain, was welcome news.

In August, US lawmakers urged the USTR not to impose new tariffs on olive oil imported from the EU, warning that it could lead to a shortage and high prices. They said the measures would create a massive shortfall, which could amount to as much as 30% of current consumer demand or 100,000 tonnes of olive oil.

Spanish olive oil exports to the USA surged 40% in the first half of 2019, which had been attributed to the prospect of tariffs and low Spanish prices, Olive Oil Times wrote.

Since January, Spanish producers had exported about US$296M worth of olive oil to the USA, an increase of US$32M compared to the same period last year.

Spain is the world’s largest producer of olive oil.