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
Olives are pictured in Antequera on October 9, 2019. (Photo by 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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‘Sell ugly fruit’: How Spain plans to stamp out food waste

Spain has introduced a new draft law to minimise food waste, forcing shops to sell ugly fruit and vegetables, among other measures.

A market seller in Spain
Spain aims to cut down on food waste. Photo: CESAR MANSO / AFP

The Council of Ministers approved Monday a draft law to combat food waste, making sure that shops promote the sale of “ugly, imperfect or unsightly” products that are ripe and ready for consumption, as well as to encourage sales of local, organic and bulk foods.

This was announced by the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas, during the press conference after the Council of Ministers.

The project for the Prevention of Food Loss and Waste consists of 15 plans of action, which seek to produce a drastic reduction in food waste.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2020 Spanish households threw away more than 1,300 million kilos of uneaten food, which is 31 kilograms per litre per capita.

With this new law, the Spanish government ratifies its commitment to comply with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.  

READ ALSO: Spain to ban plastic packaging for food and vegetables from 2023

Food donation

One of the points in the government’s plan is to ensure the donation of food with sufficient shelf life to non-profit companies or food banks. Food industries, commercial establishments, as well as hotels and restaurants will be forced to sign agreements with receiving organisations. If companies do not comply with the new rules, four types of sanctions have been introduced that can be fine businesses between €6,001 to €150,000. 

Transformation of foods 

The second point calls for shops and businesses to transform unsold foods, which are still ripe for consumption, such as making fruit into jams and juices. When they are not suitable for human consumption, food must be used as by-products for animal feed, quality compost for agricultural use, or for obtaining biogas or other types of fuel. 

Expiration and best before dates 

Another of the new obligations will be to separate and clearly differentiate products which are close to their best before date and sell them at lower prices or donate them. It also states that businesses should promote products whose best before dates have expired, if they’re still fit for consumption.  

Takeaway food at restaurants and catering services

Hotels and other catering will also have to offer their customers the possibility of taking away food that they have not finished and will have need to sure they show this option on the menu. For this, they must have suitable reusable containers.

Institutions such as health and educational centers or residences that offer catering or dining services must also have programmes for the prevention and reduction of food waste and report on how much food is thrown away.

Selling ugly fruit

Stores with a surface area of ​​400 meters or more will have to promote the sale of products considered “ugly, imperfect or unsightly”. Along these lines, they will have to encourage the sale of seasonal, local, ecological, and environmentally sustainable foods and improve information on how to use them.


Public administrations will be obliged to carry out informative and promotional campaigns to encourage responsible food consumption and promote the prevention and reduction of food loss and waste, as well as to draw up good practice guides aimed at improving food management.