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‘Banana wars’ deal may be signed this week

The “banana wars”, the longest running dispute in the history of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), is close to being settled.

European and Latin American trade officials are pushing for a deal to be signed this week. As a result, the European Union would cut duties significantly on bananas and other tropical products. The move could lead to lower prices for consumers.
The transatlantic dispute, which dates from 1993, arose because of the protection afforded by the EU to former British and French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. Latin American banana exporters, such as Ecuador, complained to the WTO, as did the US, acting to protect its multinational companies, such as Chiquita.
The EU hopes that the draft settlement will win US backing, although talks are understood to be continuing. A European trade official said: “We are very close to a conclusion. There are a few smaller things that still need to be sorted out and we hope them to be done by the end of this week or early next week.”
The official added that Baroness Ashton of Upholland, Britain’s European Trade Commissioner, was keen to finalise a deal and had spoken recently with the countries involved.
The WTO has repeatedly ruled in favour of Latin American banana exporters. They argue that the EU’s preferential trade accords with poor African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are discriminatory.
Under the draft settlement, leaked last night, the EU would cut banana import tariffs from €176 (£157) a tonne to €148. Over seven years it would fall to €114, eating away at much of the advantage enjoyed by ACP nations.
Tariffs for other tropical products imported into the EU, including sugar, could also be cut — a move that again would hit ACP nations, which have been exempt from such duties.
In a bid to pacify ACP nations, it is understood that €190 million in new development aid from the EU has been written into the deal.

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