Lawmakers urge no new tariffs for European olive oil

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging the Trump administration to spare olive oil from being targeted by potential tariffs on European goods.

In a letter on Wednesday, 19 House members, led by New Jersey Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell and Texas Republican Rep. Jodey Arrington, pleaded with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to reconsider imposing additional duties on olive oil from the European Union as part of a 15-year dispute over the United States’ and the EU’s respective subsidies for aircraft companies.

The World Trade Organization has separately ruled that the US and the EU have unfairly subsidized aircraft manufacturers: Boeing in the US and Airbus in Europe. In response, both sides have identified imports for potential duties. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump and his trade team compiled a list of goods from the EU that they may target with tariffs as a countermeasure to the EU’s aircraft industry subsidies, most recently expanding the list of products last month. The ultimate scope and amount of the tariffs depends on further deliberation at the WTO.

Trump’s team would slap tariffs on a wide range of products, including olive oil, cheese, pasta, coffee, whiskey, meat, copper and fruits.

The lawmakers warned Wednesday that including olive oil on the countermeasures list would lead to “significant domestic harm because there is no sufficient alternative supply of olive oil,” and that a drop in supply would cause prices to rise for consumers and the food industry.

“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,” the letter stated.

Higher prices, they said, could contribute to dietary problems by pushing Americans and US businesses to rely on alternatives that aren’t as healthy.

“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,” they wrote.