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EU ends long-running banana trade battle

December 21, 2009
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Reuters reports that the European Union has ended one of the world''s longest-running trade battles by agreeing to cut import tariffs on bananas from Latin America grown by U.S. corporations like Dole Food Co., Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. and Chiquita Brands International Inc. The settlement means less-expensive bananas for Europeans, more profit for U.S. fruit companies and lower revenue for some former EU colonies. It ends a 16-year-old trade dispute over access to the EU''s $6.7 billion banana market, the world''s largest. Since 1993, when it set up its tariff-free zone, the EU has offered the best import rates to 12 former colonies, places like Cameroon, Ivory Coast and Belize. The deal upset governments in countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica and Guatemala, where U.S. companies run industrial fruit plantations. Five Latin American countries, backed by the U.S., filed their first formal trade complaint at the World Trade Organization in 1993. As the dispute escalated, other countries joined the battle against the EU tariffs. Finally, this year, the four groups involved found common ground in a separate deal. In the deal, the EU will reduce tariffs on bananas from Latin American countries to €114 ($167) a ton in 2017 from €176, in return for Latin American countries dropping their WTO case. The EU''s former colonies will continue to receive virtually tariff-free access for its EU banana shipments, and will get a one-time cash payment of €200 million.
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