Sat, Feb 05, 2011 - Page 5 News List

Simmering ‘banana war’ nears end

AFP, BRUSSELS

A decades-long “banana war” between Europe and the Americas drew toward a definitive end on Thursday as the European Parliament passed a deal to reduce import tariffs.

Lawmakers sitting in Brussels voted 501 for, 114 against, to greenlight a December 2009 deal brokered by the WTO to buy off complaints by Latin American and US producers of preferential treatment for bananas grown in far-flung EU outposts and rival African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) former colonies.

The deal sees customs duties for Latin American exporters gradually fall from 176 euros (US$240) per tonne to 114 euros by 2017, with the first cut already applied even awaiting formal entry into EU law, according to a parliament spokesman.

Producers in the Americas agreed to drop their longstanding pursuit of Brussels at the Geneva-based WTO, which dates back to the early 1990s, while the EU offered a 200 million euro sweetener to ACP partners.

Nevertheless, lawmakers also called for a fresh look at aid for “ultra-peripheral” EU territories, namely the French Caribbean and Indian Ocean territories of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana and Reunion, Spain’s Canary Islands and Portugal’s Azores and Madeira.

EU producers already benefit from 279 million euros each year under a program for far-flung lands, which lawmakers want to see increased.

“We hope the European Commission will take these concerns into account and will take steps to adjust the support package for domestic EU producers,” Member of the European Parliament Laima Andrikiene said.

Home to half a billion people, the EU is the biggest banana market in the world.

Seventy percent of bananas sold in the EU’s 27 states are from Latin America, home to important US producers such as Chiquita or Del Monte.

About 20 percent come from ACP countries, while the remaining 10 percent are EU-grown.

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