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Carl Collen


Thursday 17th July 2008, 23:14 London

EU to accept WTO banana proposals

Dispute over legality of EU banana imports from ACP countries could end as EU prepares to lower tariffs on Latin American bananas

EU to accept WTO banana proposals

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The European Union has announced that it is set to agree a World Trade Organisation (WTO) compromise over banana imports, first revealed by WTO director general Pascal Lamy last week, in a bid to end the long-running dispute.

The EU has been accused of breaking trade rules by favouring banana imports from former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean, as well as the Pacific region, over lower-cost producers such as Ecuador.

The European Commission (EC) has said that it is willing to cut import charges on bananas from Latin American exporters from €176 per tonne to €116 per tonne by 2015, on the proviso that further legal action is dropped.

The EC added that it wanted all WTO member states to back the move as part of the Doha round of WTO liberalisation negotiations, long-running talks which are aimed at opening up global trade.

"Resolving this long-running problem must be part of a final Doha deal," said EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson. "I hope we can all work for a solution."

Panama in particular has expressed a desire for better terms for Latin American producers, saying that the existing tariff should be cut with additional Doha round cuts on top.

"They are willing to be reasonable in the interest of settling this long dispute, but will need to see a better starting reduction, phase-in period and final rate than the one the EC is willing to accept," Panama's WTO ambassador and the country's chief trade negotiator said in a statement.

ACP countries, however, have threatened to walk out of the Doha round of talks, set to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on 21 July, if their preferential treatment for banana exports to the EU is altered.

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