Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruíz confirmed rumors Wednesday that the European Union (EU) and the Central American countries are approaching an agreement relating to banana tariffs, but he said negotiations aren’t as close as has been reported.
“I think (others) have been a little optimistic,” he said in a phone interview with The Tico Times. “Not only do banana tariffs have to be negotiated, but there are other issues that need to be discussed.”
Ruíz, who has played a central role in the negotiations as the trade minister for the third leading banana exporter in the world, said bananas aren’t the only product being negotiated.
“Because we are negotiating this as a group of countries, we have to wait until other countries are in agreement,” he said. “There are some countries that want a better (tariff) … for (products) like rum … and flowers.”
On Wednesday, EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton told Reuters news service that the parties are approaching “the closing stages of what could be the end of this long dispute” and that an agreement could be reached in the coming week.
Ruíz responded, “I don’t want to sound negative … The discussion has really advanced … But we haven’t finished.”
An agreement over banana tariffs would mark the end of a 16-year dispute between Europe and Latin American exporters, who pay higher taxes than their African counterparts. It would also open doors for an association agreement with the EU.
Ruíz said he expects consensus to be reached before the end of the year.