Tuesday, August 02, 2005 - The World Trade Organisation ruled Monday that
a new EU tariff on imported bananas is illegal. A WTO arbitration body backed a
claim by Latin American countries - including Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela –
indicating that the proposed EU tariff of 230 euros per tonne would have a
"devastating effect" on the development of their economies and would seriously
limit their ability to export the fruit.
The EU had hoped the new regime, which was conceptualized after its previous
system of tariffs and quotas had also been ruled illegal, would strike a balance
between the demands of large-scale growers in Latin America and interests of
traditional suppliers in Africa Caribbean and the Pacific.
Some Caribbean officials including St. Lucia’s Agriculture Minister Ignatius
Jean have criticised the WTO ruling, saying it will hurt the region's vital
banana exports by squeezing producers out of the crucial European market.
“We’re certainly not happy with the decision. It has always been very difficult
to communicate this matter to the banana farmers and the people of the St. Lucia
in particular and the Caribbean in general. People often try to dismiss the
issue and try to confuse the farmers about what the government has tried to do
in this regard, and we all can see that the decision does not rest with the
government of St. Lucia. It is a decision of the WTO, which governs all trade
around the world,” Minister Jean said.
St. Lucia and other Caribbean banana producing countries, Minister Jeans said
are wasting no time and will continue to lobby in order to strike a deal with
the Latin Americans to find an amicable resolution in this matter
“As the Ministry of Agriculture, we will be forwarding a document to the Cabinet
of Ministers so that we will continue to review the ruling of the WTO and to see
all the possible consequences, reviewing our strategies and looking at the way
forward. Of course in all of this we will continue to keep the banana farmers
informed,” said the St. Lucian Agriculture Minister.
Despite the win, the Latin Americans have not suggested a new figure. The EU now
has 10 days in which to enter into consultations with the Latin American group,
which also includes Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and
Panama. If they are unable to agree on a new tariff in that time, both parties
can then request another arbitration procedure. The process must be completed
before the new tariff is due to enter into force on January 1st 2006.