San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ecuador Leads Banana Negotiations

QUITO (EFE) – Ecuadorian officialsannounced this week they plan to begincontacts with various countries in theEuropean Union to argue against a proposedE.U. tariff hike on bananas importedfrom Latin America.The European Union officially notifiedthe World Trade Organization (WTO)last week of its intent to raise the tarifffrom 75 euros ($98) to 230 euros ($300)per ton, effective in 2006 (TT, Feb. 4).“Ecuador will begin contacts withEuropean countries to sensitize themregarding the banana problem,” saidFernando Yépez, world trade director forthe Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry.He suggested other Latin Americannations follow suit. On Jan. 25, the presidentsof Ecuador, Costa Rica, Colombia,Panama and Guatemala, along with representativesfrom Nicaragua and Honduras,signed the Quito Declaration to expresstheir opposition to the increase (TT, Jan.28).With the exception of Nicaragua, thesame countries reiterated their stance in astatement to the WTO this week.Yépez expressed hope for negotiations,saying there are “profound differences”within E.U. countries regarding the tariff.Yépez said the Latin American countrieswill likely request WTO arbitration ifEurope does not relax its position.Ivonne Baki, Ecuador’s TradeMinister, said the United States supportsthe Latin American banana-producingcountries’ position.Although the United States does notexport bananas, U.S. multinational corporationssuch as Dole and Chiquita operatebanana plantations throughout LatinAmerica, giving Washington, D.C. a reasonto put pressure on the WTO in favorof a lower tariff.

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