Letter: Banana battles

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Sir: Deborah Orr ("Don't bend to the Americans", 15 January) asserts that the banana dispute has united the European Union. I wish that that were the case.

There are remaining tensions between member states which want to buy bananas from our traditional suppliers and others which would prefer to open up the market and improve access for dollar bananas from Latin American countries.

The EU has for many years supported our traditional suppliers in the Caribbean by offering terms of trade which give them the chance to prosper through their own efforts rather than someone else's aid. US banana companies, in particular Chiquita, are determined to threaten a system which presents no threat to them but, if removed, would destroy small banana farmers in the Caribbean.

The World Trade Organisation ruled against the European Union's banana regime some months ago and so a new system was devised. However, the US maintains that the new regime is still incompatible with the rules and has invoked article 301 of the US Trade Act, which provides for unilateral action.

In the meantime we continue to wait for a ruling on the new regime from the WTO. If the worst happens and the EU fails what will Bill Clinton do? Is he proposing a massive aid package to assist efforts to diversify and maintain economic stability? Should we wait to see the banana industry disappear and then work out how to deal with the resulting disaster?


(South Wales East, Labour)