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WINFA calls on region’s governments to take action

WINFA calls on region’s governments to take action


Both Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the leading advocacy group WINFA have been reacting to the leatest blow dealt to the banana industry by the World Trade Organization (WTO).

WINFA has called on Caribbean governments to take the lead in urging the European Union to seek an agreement with Latin American banana exporting countries, European producers and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries for an extension of the current banana import regime to allow for negotiations on a replacement which is acceptable to all the parties involved. {{more}} And Prime Minister Gonsalves, in a statement issued Monday, October 31, has emphasized that the Windward Islands and the ACP were dissatisfied with the process in which he said that the latter were relegated to a peripheral role in the decision making which could have grave consequences for the economies of the subregions.

The reactions came in the wake of the second ruling of an Arbitration Panel of the World Trade Organization (WTO) which on Thursday concluded that the latest proposal of the European Commission has failed to provide market access for Latin American banana to the European Union. The proposal was for a tariff of 187 euros a tonne on Latin American banana exports plus a quota of 775, 000 tonnes of ACP fruit at zero tariff. However after making the proposal, the European Commission itself turned around and requested arbitration.

The Prime Minister said it appeared that essentially the Arbitrator gave the benefit of the doubt to the complainants claiming that the quality of the analysis leading to their conclusions was highly suspect since outside experts expected imports from Latin America to increase under a single tariff regime of 187 euros.

WINFA said the second arbitration ruling continues to be of concern to banana farmers and banana exporting countries in the Caribbean and brings to the fore the issue of the continuation of the waiver granted by the WTO which allows ACP exports to Europe under preferential conditions. “We note that there are still divergent views as to how the impasse could be resolved and are of the view that the most prudent course would be for all parties to agree to an extension of the current system for an agreed period during which negotiations for an acceptable import regime should be concluded.”

WINFA believes that every effort should be made to maintain the stability of the market and to prevent a collapse in prices which would hurt both Caribbean and Latin American producers. The situation calls for urgent attention on the part of all concerned.

Prime Minister Gonsalves who has lead responsibility for Bananas in CARICOM said he was in the process of working with his regional colleagues to implement an appropriate strategy to protect and defend their banana interests.