WTO backs Ecuador in EU banana tariff battle

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Steven Maxwell

BY STEVEN MAXWELL

WTO backs Ecuador in EU banana tariff battle

Bonita Europe calls ruling a "ratification" of dollar suppliers' position but a spokesman for the European Commission says it will consider launching a further appeal against the panel's "purely formalistic approach"

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The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has confirmed its ruling that the European Union’s controversial banana tariff regime breaks global trade regulations, in the wake of complaints by Latin American banana traders.

Monday’s ruling followed an initial judgment from November last year and upheld the case against the tariff, which was first brought by Ecuador in 2006.

The South American country launched the complaint – which was backed by the US, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama – after the EU imposed import duties of €176 per tonne on bananas from nations outside its former African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) colonies. These ACP countries include the French Caribbean islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, Portuguese-owned Madeira and the Azores, and Spain’s Canary Islands.

The ruling follows a previous successful complaint brought by the Latin American nations against the EU’s former banana regime in 1996.

Paul Trauger, financial director of Ecuador-owned banana importer Bonita Europe, welcomed the ruling as a “ratification of the position of Ecuador and other Latin American banana traders who have been complaining for 12 years about the EU banana regime”.

“The EU is unlawfully discriminating against Latin American banana traders and it’s already starting to hurt us – the entire industry is suffering because of this very high and indecent tariff,” he told Fruitnet.com. “Even now the Commission is still rejecting the problem, but there is no excuse for having an illegal and incompatible regime.”

Following the ruling, an EU spokesman said that the trading bloc may consider lodging an appeal against the findings. “The Commission disagrees with the conclusions of the panel report,” European Commission agriculture spokesman Michael Mann told the International Herald Tribune. “The panel has adopted a purely formalistic approach.” 

In a separate development, US fresh produce group Chiquita Brands International has announced the appointment of William Camp to its board of directors. Mr Camp was formerly executive vice-president of agricultural processing firm the Archer Daniels Midland Company.

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