France promises to help banana producers

2nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 2 (AFP) - French ministers responsible for agriculture and French overseas territories said on Tuesday that they were determined to find a way of helping EU banana producers, particularly in the Caribbean.

PARIS, Aug 2 (AFP) - French ministers responsible for agriculture and French overseas territories said on Tuesday that they were determined to find a way of helping EU banana producers, particularly in the Caribbean.

In a statement they said that a solution was "essential", particularly for producers in French territories in the Caribbean, in a response to a ruling against the European Union at the World Trade Organisation on Monday.

On Monday, the WTO said that a new customs duty of EUR 230 per tonne imposed by the EU on bananas imported from Latin America was so high that Latin American exporters would not be able to maintain their share of the EU market. The WTO ruled that the duty had to be reduced.

The new system, which would have ensured advantageous access to EU markets for producers in the so-called African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, a group of 25 countries with preferential trading agreements with the EU, was to be applied from January 1, 2006.

French Agriculture Minister Dominique Bussereau and the Minister for Overseas Territories Francois Baroin said that the issue was "essential to the economy of the French West Indies" and that they "attach the utmost importance to defending the legitimate interests" of producers there.

They noted that the decision by three experts at the WTO allowed the European Commission 10 days in which to respond.

The WTO upheld a complaint brought by nine Latin American countries -- Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela -- which were excluded from the EU system.

These countries had asserted that the tariff was too high and unfairly restricted their access to the EU market.

Meanwhile, a union of banana producers in the French West Indies said that the WTO decision "did not take account of working conditions, particularly the low salaries paid by Latin American producers and multinational companies".

The decision would have "dramatic social consequences and will be destabilising for the whole Caribbean area".

The WTO ruling was the latest chapter in what has become known as 'the banana war'.

In the late 1990s, Brussels, Washington, which was backing US-based fruit multinationals, and some Latin American countries, were locked in a confrontation over the EU's banana barriers, which combined quotas and tariffs.

That dispute, which was also taken to the WTO, had culminated in a ruling from the trade body in 2000 that found the EU quota system to be illegal. Brussels agreed about a year later to come up with its revised system.

The European Commission formally notified the global trade watchdog earlier this year that it intended to impose the blanket, EUR 230 levy on banana imports to replace its quota system from January 2006.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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