EU calls U.S. tariffs on Spanish olives protectionism

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Cans with olives are displayed in a Brindisa shop, a Spanish fine food business, at Borough Market in London, Britain, November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission labeled as “unacceptable” on Wednesday the United States’ conclusion that Spanish olives should face import duties because they are being sold far too cheaply and benefit from unfair subsidies.

In the latest twist in a growing transatlantic trade conflict, the U.S. Commerce Department announced on Tuesday that Spanish exporters were selling olives at 16.88-25.50 percent below fair value and with subsidies that would need tariffs of 7.52-27.02 percent to counteract.

“The decision by the United States Department of Commerce to impose unreasonably high and prohibitive duties anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties on Spanish olives is simply unacceptable,” a Commission spokesman said.

“This is a protectionist measure targeting a high-quality and successful EU product popular with U.S. consumers,” he continued.

The Commission says that neither the decision nor the process leading to it were justified.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) will make a final determination on July 24 on the Spanish olive imports that were worth $67.6 million in 2017. The European Commission would consider possible further action after this.

The Spanish government said it regretted the latest U.S. move and would take up the matter with Brussels.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, additional reporting by Paul Day in Madrid; editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek and Louise Heavens