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Tuesday, December 22, 1998 Published at 08:39 GMT


US hits back in banana row

Europe's banana rules do not comply with the WTO, the US said

The United States has published a list of EU products that will be hit with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of import taxes.

US officials say they are acting in retaliation over moves to unfairly block US companies from selling bananas from Latin America to Europe.

Interview with Philippe Sands from London University and Ian Campbell from the Instititute of Export
The Americans plan to impose the taxes on products such as pecorino cheese, candles, bath preparations, handbags and bed linen from as early as February 1.

[ image: Repeated attempts to resolve the banana dispute have broken down]
Repeated attempts to resolve the banana dispute have broken down
The 100% taxes will effectively double the price to American consumers and will hit trade from Europe hard.

However US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky said "the door remains open to a negotiated solution".

The Americans are submitting the list of the products to the World Trade Organisation in January in order to get its authorisation.

Under WTO procedures the international trade body is required to grant the US request by 31 January, unless the EU requests arbitration.

'Enough is enough'

Peter Scher, Special Trade Ambassador, said: "Over the course of six years, the European Union has ignored its obligations.

"The action we are announcing today is intended to send a clear and unambiguous message that the United States will expect countries to meet their obligations, just as we meet ours."

He said the products of Denmark and the Netherlands will be exempted from penalties.

They were the only nations who voted against the European Union's banana rules, which the US contends favour bananas from the Caribbean and Africa and marketed by European companies.

Mr Scher added: "We had US companies ... which over the course of 100 years developed this business of exporting Latin American bananas to Europe.

"The EU decided essentially they wanted to take that business away and give it to European companies and they were willing to violate WTO rules to do it."

The US reprisals follow protracted legal wrangling between the two sides over bananas.

The EU argues that new banana import rules due to come into effect on 1 January are not discriminatory.

On Friday a meeting between Sir Leon Brittan, the European Union's Trade Minister, and President Bill Clinton and other administration officials failed to produce an agreement.

The list of products facing 100% import taxes include:

Pecorino cheese

Sweet biscuits, waffles and wafers

Bath preparations and other bath salts

Candles and tapers

Non-adhesive plates, sheets and films

Handbags and plastic coated articles normally carried in a handbag

Uncoated felt paper and paperboard

Non-corrugated paper boxes and cartons

Greeting cards

Knitted cashmere clothing

Unembroidered cotton bed linen

Lead-acid storage batteries, excluding those used in automobiles

Electrothermic coffee and tea makers

Non-base metal chandeliers and other electric light fixtures, except those used in public spaces.

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