Date: Thu, 19 Feb 1998 15:26:38 -0800 (PST)
From: MichaelP <email@example.com>
Subject: more banana biz
The European Commission (EC) proposal for revising its controversial banana import regime came under fire from EU member states last week. A number of member states criticized the proposal for including quantitative restraints on banana imports, arguing that the proposal is not consistent with WTO rules. The EC maintains that the proposal complies with WTO rules.
The Commission is revising its import regime in response to a WTO ruling last year which found its system of preferential market access for banana imports from four Latin American countries and former African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) colonies to be discriminatory. The United States brought the complaint to the WTO, joined by Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. The EU has committed to implementing a new banana import regime by January 1, 1999.
The United States is pressing for a tariff system that does not include quantitative restrictions but that assesses higher tariffs on Latin American bananas than on ACP imports. Sweden and Germany echoed the U.S. position last week at a meeting of the EC Special Committee on Agriculture. The two countries are major importers of Latin American bananas. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy offered support for the tariff-only scheme, but have not ruled out other possible solutions.
The United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark are reported to back the current EC proposal, with minor changes. France, Spain and Portugal are opposed to the current proposal because it does not compensate EU growers in Martinique or the Canary Islands for preferences lost under the proposed regime.
The U.S., Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico issued a joint statement February 5 criticizing the EC proposal. Panama signed on to the statement as well. The G-6 statement calls the EC proposal clearly incompatible with WTO rules with regard to the proposed separate tariff rate quotas for ACP and Latin American bananas. The paper also criticizes the EC proposal for providing ACP countries with an increased market share over its historical export levels.