On Wednesday, a bipartisan committee of lawmakers, led by Rep. Bill Pascrell, a Democrat representing New Jersey's 9th Congressional district and Rep. Jodey Arrington, a Republican representing the 19th Congressional district of Texas, made a formal appeal to the United States Trade Representative to remove olive oil from a list of potential tariffs on European imports.
Olive oil from the European Union has been placed on a list of retaliatory tariffs by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) as a response to a 15-year long trade dispute concerning the aeronautics industry between the US and the EU in the World Trade Organization. The North American Olive Oil Association is leading the fight against the 100% tariff and has lobbied Members of Congress and other government officials to remove olive oil from the list of potential tariffs.
A total of 19 Members of Congress signed onto a letter, cautioning that "additional import duties on olive oil as a result of the EU's failure to comply with the WTO decision would cause significant harm to the United States since there is no sufficient alternative supply of olive oil. "
European olive oil, if subject to a 100% tariff, will be priced out of the U.S. market, reducing availability to a trickle for those who can afford the additional $10 or $20 per bottle that would result. Since 70% of the olive oil currently sold in the US comes from the EU, the tariffs will therefore lead to a significant shortfall in availability which would negatively impact consumers, manufacturers, retailers and restaurants in terms of higher prices...if they can even find it. The shortage will also give impetus for bootleggers to sell misbranded products in retail and foodservice.
“[W]e ask that you move forward with this settlement without threatening the olive oil industry by removing olive oil from any future product lists related to this case. Thank you for consideration of our views. We look forward to working with you to secure U.S. rights under the WTO in ways that minimize domestic harm and promote public health,” the letter concludes.
You can read the full letter below or download it here.
August 21, 2019
The Honorable Robert E. Lighthizer
U.S. Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20508
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:
We write with concern regarding the inclusion of olive oil on the list of products being considered for additional import duties in response to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Large Civil Aircraft Dispute (DS316). We firmly support your determination to secure U.S. rights under the WTO Agreement in this important case; however, we are concerned that tariffs on European olive oil would cause significant domestic harm because there is no sufficient alternative supply of olive oil. We ask that you remove olive oil from any future product lists related to this case.
Without European imports of olive oil, the United States cannot meet current consumer demand. The United States is the largest importer of olive oil, of which about 70 percent comes from the European Union (EU). If all non-EU olive oil available for export would be exported to the United States, there would be a shortage of about 100,000 tons, or 30 percent of current consumer demand. The lack of alternative supply to European olive oil means that such tariffs would lead to extraordinary increases in the price of olive oil for consumers, food retailers, food manufacturers, restaurants, and many others.
We have supported the previous decades of growth in olive oil consumption because it has improved the diet of millions of Americans. As you may know, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two Qualified Health Claims for the heart healthy qualities of monounsaturated fat and oleic acid in olive oil. The growing awareness of the health qualities of olive oil have contributed to the growing demand for olive oil. Food manufacturers use it as an ingredient to differentiate their products, to reduce harmful fat content, and to increase sales. Large price increases can push many consumers and food manufacturers to choose food oils that lack the health qualities of olive oil, as well as increase the incentive for unscrupulous actors to sell misbranded olive oil.
Without tariffs, olive oil consumption has significant room for growth—only about 40 percent of U.S. households use olive oil, and per capita consumption remains a small fraction of that in Greece, Italy, and Spain, according to consumer spending data compiled by Nielsen. Federal policies should bit deter this potential for growth.
We firmly support your work to compel the EU to implement the WTO Dispute Settlement Body recommendations in this case. However, we ask that you move forward with this settlement without threating the olive oil industry by removing olive oil from any future product lists related to this case.
Thank you for consideration of our views. We look forward to working with you to secure U.S. rights under the WTO in ways that minimize domestic harm and promote public health.
Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), Jodey Arrington (R-TX-19), Mark Amodei (R-NV-02), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-03), Will Hurd (R-TX-23), Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), Anthony Brindisi (D-NY-22), Mark Takano (D-CA-41), Dwight Evans (D-PA-03), Jim Himes (D-CT-04), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL-07), Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ-06), Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-02), Mac Thornberry (R-TX-13), Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-09).
We thank the above Representatives for their support.
Further reading: Lawmakers urge no new tariffs for European olive oil (CNN)