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Spain tells France to control its farmers

Spanish authorities urged France on Friday to take action against the increasing number of attacks on Spanish trucks by France's striking farmers.

Spain tells France to control its farmers
Farmers use tractors to block a motorway in France. Photo: AFP
Spain's Foreign Ministry released a statement on Friday calling for France to do something about its striking farmer community. 
 
Madrid “expressed deep concern about the serious series of events” that it said have been taking place since July 21st and are ongoing, reported Le Figaro.
 
In an earlier statement issued in late July, the Spanish government had called on France to respect the “right to the free movement of people and goods”.
 
Scores if not hundreds of farmers have been ransacking trucks coming from Spain in recent weeks, often threatening to unload any meat or fruit bound for the French market.
 
They have reportedly used tractors at times to block the motorway not far from the Spanish border, causing traffic jams can stretch for kilometres. Farmers have used similar tactics at the German border.
 
Why the French back their striking farmers

(A farmer passes by the a pile of manure during a protest. Photo: AFP)
 
The farmers have also blocked cities, roads, and tourist sites across France in protest at falling food prices, which they blame on foreign competition, as well as supermarkets and distributors.
 
Farmers have dumped manure in cities, blocked access roads and motorways and hindered tourists from reaching Mont St-Michel in northern France, one of the country's most visited sites.
 
Fearful of France's powerful agricultural lobby, the government unveiled an emergency package worth €600 million in tax relief and loan guarantees, but the aid has done little to stop the unrest.
 
A combination of factors, including changing dietary habits, slowing Chinese demand and a Russian embargo on Western products over Ukraine, has pushed down prices for staples like beef, pork and milk.
 
Paris has estimated that around 10 percent of farms in France – approximately 22,000 operations — are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of €1.0 billion.
 
While Madrid may be unimpressed, the French are largely behind the striking farmers. Some 86 percent of the French public said they support the protests of the farmers, a survey on Tuesday revealed.
 

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FARMING

WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules

A US decision to slap steep import duties on Spanish olives over claims they benefited from subsidies constituted a violation of international trade rules, the World Trade Organisation ruled Friday.

WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules
Farmers had just begun harvesting olives in southern Spain when former US President Donald Trump soured the mood with the tariffs' announcement. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Former US president Donald Trump’s administration slapped extra tariffs on Spain’s iconic agricultural export in 2018, considering their olives were subsidised and being dumped on the US market at prices below their real value.

The combined rates of the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties go as high as 44 percent.

The European Commission, which handles trade policy for the 27 EU states, said the move was unacceptable and turned to the WTO, where a panel of experts was appointed to examine the case.

In Friday’s ruling, the WTO panel agreed with the EU’s argument that the anti-subsidy duties were illegal.

But it did not support its stance that the US anti-dumping duties violated international trade rules.

The panel said it “recommended that the United States bring its measures into conformity with its obligations”.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis hailed the ruling, pointing out that the US duties “severely hit Spanish olive producers.”

Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid, called by the olive sector
Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid called by the olive sector to denounce low prices of olive oil and the 25 percent tariff that Spanish olives and olive oil faced in the United States. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)
 

“We now expect the US to take the appropriate steps to implement the WTO ruling, so that exports of ripe olives from Spain to the US can resume under normal conditions,” he said.

The European Commission charges that Spain’s exports of ripe olives to the United States, which previously raked in €67 million ($75.6 million) annually, have shrunk by nearly 60 percent since the duties were imposed.

The office of the US Trade Representative in Washington did not immediately comment on the ruling.

According to WTO rules, the parties have 60 days to file for an appeal.

If the United States does file an appeal though, it would basically amount to a veto of the ruling.

That is because the WTO Appellate Body — also known as the supreme court of world trade — stopped functioning in late 2019 after Washington blocked the appointment of new judges.

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