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STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE TENTH INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITYON THE UNITED STATES’ UNILATERAL IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS AGAINST THE EUROPEAN UNION BANANA IMPORT MARKETING REGIME

We, the Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community, meeting in Paramaribo, Suriname, deplore the precipitate unilateral action of the United States to impose sanctions against the European Union (EU) over its Banana Import Regime. This unauthorised and illegal action undermines the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and threatens the economic survival and social and political stability of several Caribbean countries.

The European Union modified its Banana Import Regime radically and implemented the new Regime on 1 January 1999, in full compliance with the ruling of the WTO. The United States' unilateral action has no basis in the WTO. Firstly, that Organisation now has underway a binding arbitration procedure to determine the merits of the proposal for remedy by the United States. It has requested additional information which the United States has not yet provided. Secondly, the WTO, under the emergency procedures of its dispute settlement mechanism, currently has two Panels determining the conformity of the new EU Regime with its original ruling. It is the only body which can determine compliance with its rulings and is due to announce its findings by 6 April 1999. The United States is therefore in flagrant violation of the Rules and Procedures of the WTO.

The banana industry is of vital economic interest to the Caribbean and the present United States action will destroy that industry. Europe is the Region's only export market and the Region's share of that market accounts for only 2 per cent of world trade in bananas. Despite that miniscule share of the trade, the banana industry is a major earner of foreign currency and provider of employment for several Caribbean countries.

Heads of Government have, on several occasions over the last five years, explained to President Clinton the disastrous consequences for the Caribbean of any precipitous disruption of its banana market in Europe. Recognising their mutual interest, Caribbean Heads of Government and President Clinton agreed upon and signed a “Partnership for Prosperity and Security in the Caribbean” Bridgetown, Barbados in May 1997. In that Bridgetown Accord, the Caribbean and the United States explicitly agreed “to work with all concerned parties to achieve mutually satisfactory marketing arrangements for Caribbean bananas, recognising the critical importance to Caribbean countries of the continued access of Caribbean bananas to the traditional markets of the European Union”. They also recognised “the inextricable link between trade, economic development, security and prosperity” in their societies. The United States' recent action thus strikes at the very heart of the partnership with the Caribbean – its security and prosperity – and calls into question the entire partnership agreement.

The countries of the Caribbean Community have agreed to immediately review the Bridgetown Accord to determine the basis for continued cooperation.

5 March 1999

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