EU to challenge U.S. duties on Spanish olives

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union will begin legal action at the World Trade Organization this week against U.S. duties imposed on Spanish olives, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said on Monday.

Malmstrom, the European Trade Commissioner, tweeted that the duties imposed by the United States were unjustified, unwarranted and went against WTO rules.

“Tomorrow, we are taking this case to the WTO dispute settlement system, requesting consultations with the U.S,” the commissioner said on Twitter.

“From the Commission side, we have already raised this case with our U.S. counterparts at many occasions. Together with Spanish authorities, we will continue to vigorously defend the interests of EU producers,” she continued.

U.S. imports of Spanish olives were worth $67.6 million in 2017.

The U.S. Commerce Department has concluded that Spanish olives are being sold too cheaply and benefit from unfair subsidies. It has imposed anti-subsidy tariffs of between 7.52 and 27.02 percent and anti-dumping duties of between 16.88 and 25.50 percent, according to the producer, to counteract this.

Under WTO rules, the two sides have 60 days to try to settle the dispute, after which time the European Union could ask the WTO to adjudicate.

But the WTO’s dispute system is facing an imminent breakdown because the United States is blocking appointments of judges to hear trade dispute appeals. [nL8N1YM24Q]

Disputes filed now risk falling into legal limbo and may never get resolved, unless an agreement can be found before two of the three remaining appeal judges leave in December.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop. Editing by Jane Merriman