Martinique bananas

Three key European banana producers have expressed their concerns over European Union discussions to reduce import tariffs on Latin American bananas, saying that the move could cost people their livelihoods.

Senior officials from France, Portugal and Spain – who produce bananas in Caribbean territories, Madeira and the Canary Islands respectively – said at a meeting on Friday that any deal would need to be 'multilateral' and 'legally secure'.

Spanish agriculture minister Elena Espinosa met with her French counterpart Michel Barnier and Portuguese secretary of state for agriculture Luis Meideiro Vieirain Madrid to discuss the deal with representatives from the Association of European Banana Producers, according to the Associated Free Press.

Ms Espinosa told a news conference that the ministers were working together to show the sector the support it needed, and that the countries would be keeping an eye on negotiations both as part of the World Trade Organisation as well as any eventual bilateral accord between the EU and Latin American countries.

'We cannot accept any kind of cuts in the tariffs that threaten our products and those of poor countries, because behind these tariffs there are jobs,' said Mr Barnier.

EU regulators have been negotiating with Latin Americanbanana-exporting nations on an agreement to reduce current importtariffs – tariffs that these exporters feel currently hands an unfairadvantage to African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) exporters, many of whomcan export the fruit to the EU tariff-free.

The long-running dispute has seen Latin American countries complain to the World TradeOrganisation (WTO) over the tariffs on numerous occasions, with the EUlosing the case each time.

A new deal was negotiated in July 2008 at the Doha round of WTOtalks in Geneva, Switzerland, but these fell apart following thecollapse of wider negotiations.