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MEPs urge Norway to lift protectionist duties on EU farm produce

MEPs urge the Norwegian Government and Parliament to withdraw the protectionist duties on imports of cheese, lamb, beef and hydrangea flowers. They say Norway is clearly breaching the letter and the spirit of bilateral EU- Norway arrangements on trade in agricultural products.

"The forces of protectionism in Norway are strong but we are their most important trading partners, so they should keep to the agreement which obliges it to open up trade with the EU," said Vital Moreira (S&D, PT), chair of the international trade committee and co-author of the resolution.

Parliament calls on the Commission to continue talks with Norway on lifting the duties and, if it fails to cooperate, to propose `"further action".

MEPs are particularly shocked that the duties were imposed without any prior consultation with the EU. "This is not how you deal with friends," said Christofer Fjellner (EPP, SE), who co-drafted the resolution.

Affected EU states
Parliament calls on the Commission to assess the potential negative effects of the increased tariffs, as currently there is no detailed impact assessment on the effects on EU exporters and farmers.

According to a study conducted by the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the main EU suppliers likely to be affected by the new rise in duties are Ireland (for beef), the UK (for lamb) and France, Denmark, Italy, the UK, Spain and Sweden (for cheese).

Norway has been applying steep new ad valorem duties since 1 January 2013 on imports of certain types of cheese, sheep and beef meat, of 277%, 429% and 344% respectively. This move was preceded by a new 72% import duty on hydrangea flowers in September 2012, causing turbulence in relations between the EU and Norway which are generally close and smooth.

Norway enjoys equal access to the EU internal market under the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which applies to all areas except agriculture and fisheries. However, Article 19 of the EEA Treaty binds the parties "to continue their efforts with a view to achieving progressive liberalisation of agricultural trade" and on that basis the EU and Norway reached a bilateral agreement in 2012 on additional trade preferences in agricultural products.

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