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French farmers’ wine dumping sparks anger in Spain

Spain has called on Paris to get control of its farmers after two trucks carrying wine were halted at the border, before the contents were emptied onto the road.

French farmers' wine dumping sparks anger in Spain
All that nice Rioja down the drain. Archive photo: AFP

Spain has condemned attacks by French farmers against Spanish trucks carrying wine as part of a protest against falling food prices, saying the government had complained to Paris and the European Union.

In the latest of a string of angry protests, a group of French farmers stopped two Spanish tucks on Monday at the toll gate of Le Boulou in southern France near the border.

The farmers then dumped the wine the vehicles were transporting, according to the Spanish Federation of Freight Transportation (CETM).

The assault took place in front of television crews and French police who “allowed the demonstrators to act with impunity”, the CETM, which represents truckers, said in a statement.

Spain's foreign ministry said it “condemned the aggression suffered on Monday near Le Boulou by several trucks which were transporting Spanish wine”, adding that it informed the European Commission of what had happened.

“These events, which unfortunately occur regularly, are a cause of concern for the Spanish government, as they represent a flagrant violation of several basic principles of the European Union, such as the free circulation of goods between member states,” the statement added.

“Spain has already officially protested to French authorities, and urged them to adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the total security and free circulation of people and goods.”

French farmers have been furious over falling food prices, which they blame on foreign competition as well as supermarkets and distributors.

The farmers involved in Monday's protest complained that Spanish bulk wine sells for just €30-40 ($34-45) per hundred litres while French bulk wine costs 70-80 euros, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on its website.

In July farmers stopped hundreds of lorries bringing produce from Germany, setting up checkpoints with around 1,000 people and tractors, while similar protests took place near the Spanish border.

Farmers ransacked trucks from Spain on a highway in the southwestern Haute-Garonne region, threatening to unload any meat or fruit bound for the French market, prompting another complaint from Spain's foreign ministry.

French farmers estimate that around 10 percent of farms in France – approximately 22,000 operations – are on the brink of bankruptcy with a combined debt of €1billion ($1.14 billion).

Dumping Spanish wine is not a new tactic by protesting farmers as this 2006 photo below shows.

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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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