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| 12/16/2009 12:00:00 AM

EU, Latin American Countries End Banana Dispute

Dec 16--European, Latin American countries reach deal to end decade-old banana tariff dispute

European and Latin American countries on Tuesday ended a 13-year dispute over banana tariffs in a deal that will significantly open EU markets to more imports from countries such as Ecuador.

U.S. companies such as Chiquita Brands International Inc. could also benefit.

The agreement signed by trade negotiators in Geneva would immediately lower the European Union's tariff on bananas from Latin America to euro148 (US$215) from the current level euro176 per ton. It must still be formally approved by each government.

The EU's import charge would drop under the deal to just euro114 a ton by 2017, meaning millions of dollars in new opportunities for growers in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Some of these nations — supported by American fruit distributors such as Del Monte and Dole — have bitterly battled the 27-nation EU for over a decade over the bloc's system of preferential conditions for producers from African and Caribbean countries, mainly former British and French colonies.
 
Read more here.
 
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