A trade deal that is being worked out in secret between the Trump administration and the Israeli government may make some food items cheaper for the Israeli consumer. However, it could also hurt Israeli farmers.

A report in The Marker claimed that U.S. officials have been negotiating a trade deal with Israel’s Agriculture Ministry and the Israeli Treasury. The Israeli ministries refused to comment to the press or reveal the details of the ongoing negotiations with their U.S. counterparts.

“We’re not interested in responding because the release to the public of any of the particulars during the negotiations would hurt the interests of the State of Israel,” the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The report claimed to have obtained a document outlining the U.S. demand to ease the tariffs pertaining to 40 categories of products, of which 15 are agricultural. On the list of American-made products Israelis may soon become familiar with are California wines and butter produced by New Mexico cows.  

The U.S. wants to import 13,000 tons of apples annually. The annual consumption of apples in Israel is approximately 135,000 tons, of which 3,000 tons are already imported from the United States. Not only will this be detrimental to Israel apple farmers but it will also cut into tax revenue.

The United States is demanding that it be allowed to import 10,000 tons of cheese per year, exempt from customs duties. For comparison, a total of 6,000 tons of hard cheeses were imported to Israel in 2018.

Israel currently imports 300 tons of duty-free butter from the United States. The U.S. would like to see that amount rise to 850 tons. About 6,000 tons of butter is consumed in Israel annually, and half of this quantity is already imported.

The U.S. would like to import 600,000 liters of wine to Israel with a full exemption from customs. In Israel, about 30 million liters of wine are consumed annually.

Other affected food items will be pears, carp, almonds, chickpeas, and potatoes. The deal will not only threaten local growers but is also expected to drastically decrease revenues from import duties.

Israeli farmers can currently export however much they want to the United States without paying import duties to the U.S. but that arrangement is not reciprocal. American agricultural imports to Israel are controlled by quotas, as are all agricultural imports to Israel.  

Source: Israel in the News