|Jamaica not pleased with draft agreement on tariff reduction for bananas|
|Published on Wednesday, July 23, 2008|
|KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS): Action is being taken, in alliance with CARICOM and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, to convey Jamaica’s position to the European Commission, Latin America and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in regard to the draft agreement, which proposes a severe reduction to the current tariff for bananas entering the European market.
This was noted by State Minister in the Ministry of Foreign affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Ronald Robinson, in his contribution to the 2008/09 State of the Nation Debate in the Senate last week.
The proposed reduction in tariff rates, the State Minister said, would "seriously compromise the competitiveness of bananas from Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean in the EU market."
He said the agreement is unacceptable, and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Agriculture have met with stakeholders in the banana industry to discuss the matter.
Senator Robinson explained that the draft agreement presented by the WTO Secretary General to the European Commission (EC) and the Non-ACP banana producing countries, mainly in Latin America, proposes a severe reduction to the current tariff of 176 per tonne for bananas entering the EU market.
He pointed out that the proposals call for an initial reduction to 150 by 2009 with a further reduction during the course of six years to 116 per tonne. "It should be noted that the members of the WTO having interest in tropical products have counter-proposed with the initial tariff cut to 109 per tonne by 2015, which is even more drastic than the proposal posited by the WTO Director-General," he said.
"We have been embroiled in this banana dispute for over 15 years and it continues to provide serious challenges to the banana industry in the Caribbean region. We need to intensify our efforts to make this industry competitive and to continue the process of diversification. These efforts are critical when juxtaposed against an aggressive campaign to whittle away the margins of preferences from which Jamaica and the Caribbean previously benefited," the State Minister said.
He assured that the Ministry would continue to do all that is possible to secure the interest of Jamaica’s productive sectors in the WTO and all other trade arenas.
Robinson is now in Geneva attending a mini-ministerial conference at the WTO, heading the Jamaican delegation. The meeting, which is being held from July 21-23, has been convened in light of the new thrust to reach a consensus in the agriculture and non-agriculture market access negotiations in the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations, which have been ongoing for almost seven years.