BRUSSELS (Oct. 14)
Israel is making clear to its European trading partners the serious concern it has for its agricultural exports once Spain and Portugal become members of the European Economic Community (EEC) little more than a year from now.
A delegation representing Hamerkaz Hakhaklat, the central organization of agricultural cooperatives in Israel, had a series of meetings here last week with representatives of Belgian and European agricultural interests generally.
Simha Assaf, Secretary General of the organization, who headed the Israeli group, stressed that “We are not asking for preferential treatment, but we want the European authorities to take our situation into account on a basis of reciprocity and equality.”
Israel is not the only Mediterranean country concerned about the effects of Spain and Portugal joining the Common Market. Assaf pointed out that most of the agricultural products Israel exports to the European Community are also exported by Spain. This poses a grave threat, especially as Spanish products are subsidized. Assaf noted that 65 percent of Israel’s agricultural exports go to Europe.
SEEKING TO PRESERVE ISRAEL’S MARKET
Spain is slated to enter the EEC on January 1, 1986, but the date is problematic because negotiations are presently deadlocked. Nevertheless, Assaf said, “We want, as a minimum, to preserve our part of the market in order to avoid a crisis for our farmers.”
He explained that Israel has made “big financial efforts in the field of agricultural research” and stressed that “Our exports are not a danger to European production.”
Assaf also emphasized the huge trade deficit between Israel and the EEC countries which now amounts to $1.7 billion. “This deficit will grow if limits are imposed on the access of our products to the (European) Community, ” he said. Israel and the EEC have been linked since 1975 by an agreement of cooperation which provides for the gradual elimination of customs duties on agricultural and industrial products by both sides.
AGREES TO EXPAND TALKS IN THE FUTURE
The Israel-EEC Cooperation Council had its most recent meeting last February. Agreement was reached then to expand their talks in the future to cover the consequences for Israel by the entry of Spain and Portugal into the EEC. Those talks were to have begun this month but the Israeli authorities suggested they be postponed until the negotiations between the EEC and its two future new members are completed.
While in Brussels, the Israeli delegation met with Jan Hinnekens, president of the Professional Agricultural Organization (COPA); G. Gillet, president of the Alliance Agricole Belge; and Helmut Von Verschuer, deputy director general in charge of agricultural matters of the European Executive Commission. They all accepted invitations to visit Israel.
The European Executive Commission does not minimize Israel’s problems in this area. Edgar Pisani, commissioner in charge of development cooperation, has suggested a “global approach.”