Just when you thought it was safe to import bananas…

Opposition from several Latin American countries threatens to derail the deal reached last April by the EU and the US over banana imports to Europe. The Financial Times reports that Panama, Honduras, Guatamala and Nicaragua objected to the EU’s request on 31 July that WTO rules be waived so that it could implement the new banana import rules agreed with the US. There is now a possibility that the EU will be unable to meet the 1 January 2002 deadline it agreed with the US for the next stage of amendments to the banana regime.

The EU’s request was aimed at getting a 90-day consultation period started where the waivers it needs could be considered. The Financial Times reports that Panama, Honduras, Guatamala and Nicaragua claim that they do not have enough information about the new regime in order to take a considered position on the waiver request.

 

The EU-US banana dispute began in 1993 when the EC introduced a new import regime for bananas that favoured ACP countries at the expense of Latin American producers. The banana regime was declared illegal by the WTO on several occasions despite adjustments before the US was authorised to impose $191 million sanctions on a range of EU imports in April 1999. The US suspended these sanctions on 1 July 2001 as part of an agreement reached in April 2001 with the EU that introduces a new regime based on a tariff system from 1 January 2006.

 

The EU must now wait until September before discussions can be held with the those countries who are objecting. The aim is to reach an agreement by the Doha ministerial meeting in November. If this issue is not resolved by 1 January 2002, then the US will be able to reimpose the sanctions that it suspended last month, says the Financial Times.

 

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