Banana exporters ask E.U. for major tariff cut

June 6, 2008

Costa Rica’s National Banana Corporation (CORBANA) will ask the European Union to slice tariffs by more than half to end “discriminatory” trade agreements with other banana-producing countries, according to a representative.

Latin American bananas have been subject to a €176 ($275) per ton import tax since 2006. CORBANA, along with other regional producers, is asking that it be cut to €75 ($117).

CORBANA’s general manager Jorge Sauma said the euro’s growing strength against the dollar is one reason to ask for a reduction in tariffs.

“The blow (against Latin American exporters) becomes stronger,” Sauma said.

In 2007, Costa Rica exported close to $674 million-worth of bananas and plantains, according to the Foreign Trade Ministry. The European Union purchases 67 percent of its bananas from Latin America, 23 percent of which comes from Costa Rica.

Remaining imports arrive from the African, Caribbean and Pacific zones, whose products enter the European market without tariffs.

CORBANA and other Latin American organizations hope to reduce the European Union’s universal tariff during negotiations at the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round in July.

If that discussion is unsuccessful, the group will bring its concerns to future E.U. trade agreement talks.

Although he could understand the old continent’s desire to protect its former colonies, Sauma called the European Union’s present tariff structure “discriminatory.”

The goal, he said, should be a greater equilibrium between Europe and its different trading partners.

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