San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Banana Producers Present United Front to Europe

QUITO (EFE) – Leaders from LatinAmerican banana-producing countriesmet in Ecuador Wednesday to discuss theregion’s response to the European Union’sproposed banana tariff hike, and decidedto unite in opposition.The countries will negotiate to maintainthe current maximum tariff of 75euros ($97.5) per ton, said EcuadorianTrade Minister Ivonne Baki.According to Ecuadorian PresidentLucio Gutiérrez, whose country is theworld’s leading banana exporter, the proposedincrease to 230 euros ($300) per tonwould have “devastating social and economicconsequences” for Latin America.The other Presidents in attendance atthe conference included Abel Pacheco(Costa Rica), Alvaro Uribe (Colombia),Martín Torrijo (Panama) and OscarBerger (Guatemala). Representativesfrom Nicaragua and Honduras also werepresent.Gutiérrez said the meeting is “anexample of the profound solidaritybetween the countries,” adding that thenewly unified position regarding bananatrade will open new negotiating opportunitieswith Europe.The leaders signed the “QuitoDeclaration” at the close of the conference.According to Gutiérrez, the agreement“reflects our… commitment todefend our rights and legitimate interestsin this crucial matter.”Gutiérrez said the seven countries representedin Quito maintain “the best relationswith the European Union” and areconfident that the two sides can reach amutually convenient solution.According to Baki, the declarationwas to be immediately distributed amongparticipating countries’ ambassadors tothe EU so that negotiations could begin.“The efforts of these seven countrieswill make Europe reflect greatly,” shesaid.In February, the countries’ trade ministersare scheduled to travel to Europefor negotiations. If no results are achievedin the first trimester of this year, theWorld Trade Organization (WTO) may beasked to arbitrate.Costa Rica’s firm stance against thetariff change, which leaders here said isunfair since it would not apply to African,Caribbean and Pacific producers, causedsome producers here to fear they wouldlose access to the European market altogether(TT, Nov. 26, 2004).Costa Rica exported 102 millionboxes (18.14 kilograms per box) of thefruit last year, of which it sent 50% to theEuropean Union.

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