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A Regional Consultation on the ruling of the World Trade Organisation=s (WTO) Appellate Body with respect to the European Union=s banana regime was held recently at the Headquarters of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana.

The Appellate body upheld the decision of the Dispute Panel which ruled in favour of the United States-led application to stop the preferential treatment meted out to bananas entering the European market from African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries under the Lomé Convention. The Convention is a trade and aid agreement which governs economic relations between Europe and the ACP group made up largely of former European colonies.

The Consultation was attended by representatives of Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Mission in Brussels, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) (Caribbean Office, Trinidad and Tobago), the CARIFORUM Programming Unit and the CARICOM Secretariat.

The meeting provided for an initial assessment of the ruling of the WTO Appellate Body and it is expected that further consultations will be undertaken to develop a position which reflects a consensus of views and allows for a more detailed consideration of issues relevant to safeguarding Caribbean interests in the EU Banana Market.

The officials reviewed the findings and conclusions of the WTO and identified the provisions of the ruling which were of particular significance to Caribbean Banana Exporters and which should either be protected or accommodated to safeguard the interest of the Caribbean. They discussed some of the possible alternatives to address the concerns and needs of Caribbean Banana Exporters and, where possible, meet the obligations of the EU in the WTO.

The meeting also discussed possible follow-up action by the Caribbean in light of the acceptance by the EU of the ruling, upcoming high level meetings in Europe and Gabon, Africa and the invitation by the United States Secretary of State for a technical level meeting with the Caribbean.

The Consultation considered the following opportunities which could be used to firm-up or promote the interests of the Caribbean in relation to the Banana issue: – the Meeting of the Caribbean Community=s Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations scheduled for 23 October; the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference scheduled for Edinburgh, Scotland from 24-27 October ; the visits of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community to key capitals of Europe during the period 29-31 October; discussions between the ACP Ambassadors in Brussels and key EU personnel and the invitation by the United States for technical-level discussions.

The officials agreed that efforts should be made, with urgency, to firm-up a Caribbean position at the technical level involving the various interests and that technical level meetings with any other parties should await completion of an acceptable coordinated regional position and exchanges with the EU and ACP partners.

They also agreed that a CARICOM meeting on the banana issue at the political, technical and producer levels should be convened as soon as possible to address both short, medium and long-term concerns of the industry in the Region and the necessary technical work should be undertaken to support the arguments of the Caribbean in efforts to safeguard the interests of Caribbean banana exporting countries.

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