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EU Pressed to Change Banana Policy

June 22, 1998

GENEVA (AP) _ The United States and Latin American banana producers kept up the pressure on European Union countries Monday to make more substantial changes in its banana import policy.

Changes proposed by the union’s executive commission fail to resolve longstanding concerns and don’t comply with World Trade Organization rules, the United States and several Latin American countries told a trade meeting in Geneva.

``WTO members must do more than simply announce their support for WTO obligations, they must abide by them,″ said a statement to the meeting from the United States, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Mexico.

They complained last year that the EU was unfairly favoring banana imports from colonies and ex-colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific via a complex system of tariffs, quotas and import licenses.

They said the EU was costing more efficient producers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost trade.

A WTO dispute settlement panel subsequently ruled in favor of the United States and the Latin Americans and told the union to reform the system. The EU accepted the panel’s findings.

The EU’s executive commission has proposed ending the EU’s banana import license program.

But on Monday, the United States and the Latin Americans expressed concern that the European Union had wrongly interpreted the WTO dispute settlement panel’s report.

The case would serve as a test of the European Union’s ``willingness to respect the multilateral trading system″ and failure to produce a satisfactory response would be challenged, they said.

``The United States will not hesitate to use its full rights under the WTO and take all available action,″ said permanent U.S. trade representative to the WTO, Rita Hayes.

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