Leading Article: Time to admit defeat in the banana war

IT IS time to end the monkey business over the banana war. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled on Tuesday that the United States may impose $191m (pounds 120m) worth of duties on goods from the European Union (EU). This is in response to special subsidies that the EU has given to bananas grown in the former colonies of its member states. The EU has argued that the 14,000 or so banana farmers in the Caribbean need this help while they develop new ways to earn a living. Sir Leon Brittan, the Vice President of the European Commission, has already said that the EU will appeal against this decision. But the US has the letter of the law on its side and the European Union should learn to live with the decision.

The behaviour of the United States has certainly been bullying. Its imposition of tariffs on Terry's Chocolate Oranges and Scottish cashmere sweaters, among other EU goods, has been illegal and unnecessarily aggressive. There is reason to think that the whole trade war has been bought off the shelf by the US banana lobby through donations to the Democrats. But the US is right on this occasion. The Europeans now need to negotiate, not appeal. It would be to no one's benefit if the US decided to impose the tariffs up to the WTO limit.

There is no reason why the WTO's decision should prevent the EU helping the Caribbean islanders. It could increase the amount of economic development aid it gives to the islands.

Furthermore, with the future of the European Commission under debate, it would be best if this matter could be sorted out before Romano Prodi becomes its president. And with more people fleeing from Kosovo and the number of deaths increasing daily, the Western allies do not need to be wrangling over who is top banana.

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