Saturday, March 6, 1999 Published at 00:27 GMT
Business: The Economy
Clinton: It's about rules not bananas
A worker checks the banana crop near Basse-Terre on Guadeloupe
President Bill Clinton says he hopes the bitter banana row between America and the European Union can be ended within the next few weeks.
"We still have time to fix this ... and I hope very much we will in the next few weeks get a resolution of this."
He was speaking ahead of Saturday's meeting between US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and UK Foreign Minister Robin Cook to try and resolve the trade war.
The row centres on allegations that Europe favours Caribbean bananas over those from Central American companies - many of which are owned by US firms.
'We must stick to rules'
President Clinton said the dispute was not really about bananas, but about the need for rules to govern world trade.
Mr Cook, speaking on the eve of his meeting with Mrs Albright, said: "We are both committed to free trade and I would certainly wish to argue that it is not helpful for America unilaterally to impose trade sanctions on Britain."
Meanwhile, the World Trade Organisation has called emergency talks on Monday to discuss the US's decision to impose import restrictions on many European goods.
The EU has accused Washington of "irresponsible unilateral action" and "blatant disregard" of WTO dispute procedures.
On Friday, the US Ambassador to London, Philip Lader, was summoned by the UK Government for a second time in two days to discuss the dispute.
The Foreign Office called him in to underline "the seriousness with which the UK regards the issue".
Baroness Symons expressed her "shock and concern'' at the US decision to take action ahead of a ruling by the WTO on the EU's revised banana regime.
Mr Lader insisted the US would work hard with Britain to find a solution.
"The United States did not take these actions lightly. We don't take the potential consequences lightly," he added.
US imposes charges
The bonds will cover the cost of duties that Washington might impose in future, if the WTO finds in its favour.
About $520m a year of EU exports are affected by the action, and thousands of jobs could be put at risk.
But the US has lost patience with both the EU and the WTO, which has so far delayed a decision on whether Brussels is breaking trading laws.
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