Processed Foods Section
Joseph Christovao, IV.
Some members of the Processed Foods Section of AFI were among many in the industry blind-sided by the antidumping and countervailing duty petitions filed on ripe olives from Spain. The petitions were filed by two U.S. companies that import a lot of olives, so it wasn’t something that anyone expected.
The petitions were filed on the Thursday before the Fancy Food Show in New York. Importers, knowing time is of the essence in these situations, were quick to come together via a conference call the next day. When the show opened two days later, the petitions were the talk of the show in the Spanish pavilion and actually in just about any booth of a company dealing in olives. Many discussions, including some meetings involving several parties, were held during the show.
The constant in all of this was AFI. The association’s staff arranged the conference call, during which a team of attorneys outlined the process and possible outcomes. Many of the meetings – all of the larger ones – at the Fancy Food Show were coordinated through AFI. AFI solicited bids from law firms to represent the interests of the importers. Several firms were considered. The group chose longtime AFI Associate Member Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg. It was through AFI that importers were able to pool resources to submit questionnaires and later be represented throughout the proceedings. It’s through AFI that importers continue to meet filing deadlines and ensure their voice is heard.
Without AFI, importers would have been on their own. Many were contacted by law firms offering assistance. Some would have rushed to hire their own firm rather than join a group. In some cases, they may not have even realized working as a group was an option. So without the association’s help, many firms would have spent a lot more money and rather than one cohesive approach, there would have been many disjointed filings – all at a greater expense.
Additionally, much of the early work was done within hours or days. It’s no coincidence the petitions were filed when many in the industry were going to be out of their offices at the trade show and then out for the holiday the following week. The timeframes to file paperwork in AD and CVD cases is short. Industries need a way to react quickly. This instance is a great example of how an association – AFI, in particular – can help.
Failure to participate in the process can be costly for individual companies and the industry as a whole. Petitioners typically throw as much as they can include in a petition and then see what sticks. Foreign suppliers and importers of the targeted product(s) need to call out overstatements, etc. in the petitions so the investigating agencies in Washington have all of the facts. A coordinated defense by the industry typically leads to a better result. That’s why AFI and its members sprang into action as soon as the petitions were filed.
Members of the Processed Foods Section are hopeful another association effort will bear fruit shortly. AFI is working to get temporary duty eliminations and reductions on several imported products. The effort is done through the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill, a huge bill containing proposed duty suspensions on thousands of products. Items on the MTB are products not manufactured here in the U.S. Many are components or ingredients used for further processing by domestic manufacturers. As in past MTBs, we believe the only food items contained in the bill are the items included by request of AFI. As this was being written, the bill was ready to go and awaiting action by Congress. Unfortunately, that’s been the case for quite some time but we’re hopeful Congress will act before the summer. The MTB benefits companies in all or nearly all Congressional districts, so there’s no opposition to it. That Congress hasn’t acted yet is frustrating but there’s also been no indication of any plans to ignore it.
One year, two different efforts to protect the interests of the industry. Both will result in lower costs not only to companies in the industry but to consumers. As an industry, we owe it to ourselves to work together to address issues that come up. It not only helps protect us but it lowers the price consumers have to pay.