EU, Latin American nations end 'banana dispute'

EU, Latin American nations put to rest long-running dispute over trade in bananas

Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) -- The infamous 'banana dispute,' an international trade battle that started over two decades ago, has finally ended.

The European Union and 10 Latin American countries agreed to put to rest a trade dispute dating to 1991 over tariffs on bananas, which are a vital export for several Latin American economies, the World Trade Organization said Thursday.

Their agreement, signed Thursday in the presence of World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy, formally ends eight separate WTO cases.

"This is a truly historic moment," Lamy said. "After so many twists and turns, these complicated and politically contentious disputes can finally be put to bed. It has taken so long that quite a few people who worked on the cases, both in the Secretariat and in member governments have retired long ago."

The signing comes after the nations reached agreement in Geneva in December 2009 for the EU to gradually reduce its tariffs on imported bananas from €176 per metric ton ($224 for 2,205 pounds) to €114 per metric ton within eight years.

The EU import tariffs had favored imports from former European colonies.

The Latin American countries present at the signing were Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and Peru. Peru, which had participated in some of the key negotiations, did not sign the agreement because it was not directly involved in the disputes, the WTO said. 

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