US and EU trade agreement could benefit U.S. olive oil industry

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A trade agreement being negotiated between the United States and European Union could benefit U.S. farmers and ranchers in a major way, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. U.S. farm groups have varying takes on the agreement, which is targeted for completion next year.

A pending trade agreement between the United States and European Union could bring substantial benefits to this country’s agricultural sector, according to trade officials.

While U.S. farm groups generally support the agreement, there are a host of issues they want it to address.

First and foremost, the agreement needs to result in truly free trade, said Idaho farmer Jim Tiede, vice president of government affairs for the National Potato Council’s executive committee.

“The National Potato Council is interested in free trade for everybody but it needs to be free and fair trade,” he said.

According to a fact sheet from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the agreement could double U.S. processed food exports to EU nations, which totaled $5.2 billion in 2013.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is scheduled to be finalized in 2015, seeks to eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers on agricultural, industrial and consumer products.

The U.S. exported a record $145 billion worth of agricultural products in 2013, including $10 billion to EU nations, “a figure that can and should be much higher,” the USTR fact sheet stated.

Some U.S. ag products, such as apples and olive oil, face lopsided tariffs when going to EU nations.

U.S. olive oil faces duties of $1,680 per ton when shipped to the EU while olive oil from the EU faces duties of only $34 per ton when coming to the U.S.

A little over $1.1 billion worth of olive oil was imported to the U.S. last year and 80 percent of it originated from the EU, according to the American Olive Oil Producers Association.

“It’s a tremendous disparity,” said AOOPA Executive Director Kimberly Houlding. “We do see an opportunity for olive oil within TTIP.”

The U.S. olive oil industry also hopes the agreement addresses the issue of fraudulent or mislabeled olive oil entering this country, as well as mandatory labeling and quality standards, Houlding said.

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