Right of Reply: Junior Lodge

A Jamaican trade representative replies to the US ambassador to the WTO

RITA HAYES claims that the current banana dispute is jeopardising the credibility of the World Trade Organisation. It is certainly true that the credibility of the WTO is undermined when a member acts as judge, jury and prosecutor in its own cause.

Ambassador Hayes asserts that the EU has failed to comply with the 1997 WTO ruling on bananas. But only the WTO can determine whether the EU new banana import regime complies with international trade rules. At the request of both the EC and Ecuador, a panel is presently adjudicating on this issue and is due to report on April 12.

The US refused to await this decision. Instead, they pre-empted the WTO by effectively imposing penal sanctions on completely unrelated EC goods exported to the US. The unilateral American action makes a mockery of WTO proceedings.

The US objective is to increase the share of fruit marketed by the already dominant US owned companies. To achieve this the US has attacked the very provisions that ensure Caribbean banana producers access to the EC market. In 1998, Caribbean bananas accounted for 7 per cent of all bananas sold in the EC, compared to the 62 per cent market share enjoyed by Latin American producers. But they account for over half of all the export earnings of Dominica, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and form the basis of the economy of regions in both Belize and Jamaica.

Ambassador Hayes refers to President Clinton's claim that the dispute is not about bananas but rules and global prosperity. Pursuit of global prosperity must be permitted to all trading partners, not least the smaller countries. For all Caribbean producers, this dispute is about bananas.

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