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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ecuador to restart banana talks

TVNZ, Aug 4, 2008

Ecuador hopes to revive in October failed talks with the European Union to slash its banana import tariff key to Latin American exporters of the yellow fruit, a newspaper reported.

A historic deal struck to cut tariffs for Latin American bananas imported into the world's biggest banana market was scrapped as wider free trade talks went down in flames at a World Trade Organisation meeting in Geneva.

"We will continue with the legal action and hope to exert enough pressure to solve the banana row," Ecuador's head negotiator, Mentor Villagomez, told Quito daily El Comercio. "From there we hope to restart negotiations in September or October."

Villagomez said October was the most likely date and that Ecuador, the world's top banana exporter, loses US$201 million per year from the EU's import tariff. Banana trade is Ecuador's second largest source of income after oil exports and employs nearly 2 million people.

Latin American countries had reached a deal to slash the EU's import duty of 176 euros per tonne to 114 euros by 2016.

European former colonies in Africa and the Caribbean get preferential treatment to access the European market and feared the deal could hurt their exports.

Earlier this year, the World Trade Organisation ruled in favor of Ecuador, which charged the EU broke international trade rules with its banana import regime in one of the oldest trade disputes in the world.

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