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MEPs Back Import Duty Concession For Tunisia

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

26 February 2016

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have backed proposals to allow an additional 70,000 tonnes of virgin olive oil to be imported from Tunisia duty-free over the next two years.

A resolution on the emergency quota was approved by 475 votes to 126, with 35 abstentions. It follows a similar vote by Parliament's Trade Committee.

Under the scheme, a two-year temporary zero-duty tariff quota of 35,000 tonnes per year will be available from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2017. There will be no increase in the overall volume of imports from Tunisia. The EU will discount duties on the olive oil that Tunisia is already exporting to the EU.

Under previous trade agreements, Tunisia has a 56,700 tonne annual duty-free quota for virgin olive oil. The EU imported 145,200 tonnes of Tunisian olive oil in 2014-15, 32,000 tonnes in 2013-14, and 114,400 tonnes in 2012-13. The additional 35,00 tonne quota will apply once the regular annual quota is exhausted.

MEPs have requested a mid-term assessment, which would require the European Commission to review the impact on the EU olive oil market after one year and take any corrective measures required. They also inserted a "tracking clause" obligation into their resolution, to ensure that all olive oil under the quota is obtained entirely in, and transported directly from, Tunisia. They rejected the possibility of "contemplating" the extension of the measure beyond the initial two years.

Rapporteur Marielle de Sarnez said: "Tunisia has come a long way since the Arab Spring, as one of the rare countries which has truly achieved a democratic transition. Tunisia has been a target of terrorist attacks precisely because it is on its way to consolidating its democracy. These attacks had an awful impact on the tourism sector and the wider economy at a time when Tunisians were already battling a tough economic crisis, with a high unemployment rate among young and educated people. This is why it is crucial that the EU should express its solidarity with the Tunisian people. We want Tunisia to succeed, and must help with concrete measures that boost its economy immediately."

TAGS: European Commission | tariffs | trade treaty | agreements | unemployment | Tunisia | trade | European Union (EU) | Europe

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