Jun 23, 1992


GENEVA, 21 JUNE (TWN) -- Latin American banana producers are bringing before GATT a complaint against the European Community over its current and proposed new regimes for import of Bananas.

As a preliminary to seeking GATT adjudication, they have sought formal consultations with the EC in GATT.

This was revealed in the GATT Council Friday, when under any other business (resulting in no action being taken), Costa Rica voiced a complaint on its own behalf and that of other Latin American producers over the new banana import regime that the EC has announced for the post-92 EC single market.

Costa Rica, along with Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela has sought formal consultations with the EC under Article XXII, an essential pre-requisite for a panel. The consultation sought, Costa Rica explained, was both in respect of the current regimes applied in several EC member-States as also the proposed new single-market regime to be effect from 1 January 1993.

Costa Rica complained that the new import regime from I January, far from eliminating the current illegal regimes in France, UK, Spain, Portugal and Greece, would extend them to the whole of the EC, and thus make the situation worse for Latin American exporting countries.

The main beneficiaries of the current regime, Costa Rica contended, were not the ACP countries (who enjoy preferential tariffs and trade inside the EC), nor even the banana producers of EC overseas territories, "but a few and selected group of importers who have positioned themselves in a monopolistic situation" and would benefit even more through an EC import licensing scheme.

Costa Rica said that if the EC Council of Ministers adopt the proposed single-market regime for bananas, suggested by the EC Commission, the economic damage already caused to Latin American producers in several EC member states under the current regime, would be extended to all EC members. The extension of the quota system to the entire EC market under the new regime would be a serious setback to trade liberation.

Costa Rica also noted that in 1973, GATT had examined the principles of the referential regime against the UK, and the panel had ruled against the UK. Though bananas had been included in that complaint, it had been eliminated because of lack of U.S. standing in banana exports. But Costa Rica and others now bringing up the complaint (who have all recently joined the GATT) have the trade standing to raise the complaint.

Costa Rica also said that while the Council was not the forum for renegotiating the Uruguay Round, the EC action would violate both the Punta del Este standstill and rollback commitments as well as the Mid-term Review Commitments. It was also against the goals and objectives of the agriculture negotiations.

While a number of Latin American countries spoke in support, Jamaica and Cote D’Ivoire spoke in support of the ACP preferences.