Regional banana exporters uneasy as Latin America pressures EU

Jamaica Gleaner

Regional banana exporters uneasy as Latin America pressures EU

22 February 2008

The Caribbean Banana Exporters’ Association (CBEA) is expressing grave concern that the European Union (EU) might bow to pressure from Latin American banana producing countries and reduce its 176 euros per tonne tariff for bananas from that region.

This would have the effect of reducing the benefit to be derived from the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states.

For bananas and most other Caribbean products, the EPA will provide immediate duty-free entry into the EU, with no restrictions on quantity. In return, the Caribbean will have to provide duty-free access for EU exports.

CBEA, representing the banana exporting interests of Belize, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Suriname and the Windward Islands, claims that despite assurances, the EU "now appears willing to dilute or nullify the benefits of the agreements even before they are formally signed".

Pressing concerns

Jamaica is expected to sign the EPA on March 15.

The association met recently with its African counterparts of Cameroon and Ivory Coast to discuss what they termed "pressing concerns over the European banana trade".

Dr Marshall Hall, a member of the CBEA, told The Gleaner yesterday that the group had called for a meeting with the World Trade Organisation head, Pascal Lamy, and Peter Manderson, director of the EU Commission.

"We don’t want the tariffs changed in 2008 at all and then going forward we are saying we need a period of 10 years where whatever is the final tariff you want to get to, it takes 10 years to get there," he said.

The CBEA and its African counterparts called on the EU to recognise the social and economic factors that justify the longstanding preference granted to the banana industries of the ACP countries.

It also wants the EU to refrain from making a premature offer for bananas in their negotiations with Central America or other non-ACP regions.

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