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May 26, 2010

ACP banana producers feel “betrayed” by EU

Representatives of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries were lobbying for greater assistance for their banana exports to Europe to compensate for the EU’s improving trade relations with Latin America at the European Parliament and Commission in Brussels, on 29 April.

Cameroon’s Trade Minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, representing the ACP, said he would challenge MEPs and the Commission to go further than the €190 million package proposed by the European Commission, on 17 March, to help banana producing ACP countries adapt to the new trade regime since it resolved its trade dispute with Latin America and the United States, resulting in cuts to import tariffs on Latin American bananas. The minister argued that even with the ‘banana accompanying measures,’ ACP countries had been “betrayed” by the EU.

“We don’t want indefinite support,” he said. “We are asking for accompanying measures to be able to participate in a globalised world, we are asking to be partners,” he added. “Isn’t Europe actually turning its back on our countries?” he challenged. “Isn’t there a kind of falling out of love – I don’t want to talk about divorce – but a kind of falling out of love with Africa?” he asked.

The minister said he felt that globalisation had been vaunted as a great hope for small or developing nations, but had only benefitted the major new players. He said the attitude of large trading powers, such as the EU or the US, was tokenistic. “They say we are going to accept several at the table, the emerging ones, China, India, Brazil, and then consider everyone is represented,” he said.

The Cameroonian minister called for development considerations to be taken into account more. He called the banana industry the “social cement” of ACP countries, many of which are struggling to emerge from economic and political turmoil, providing sources of employment, which feed into social stability.

The Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, recently said the EU was indeed determined to support these countries’ development through trade. “The Commission has committed itself to fully stand by ACP countries to foster their efficient integration into the world economy while respecting international trade rules,” Piebalgs said.

At the 19th Joint ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly, held in Tenerife (Spain), parliamentarians asked the European Commission to increase aid to ACP and EU banana producers in order to help them adapt to the new regime and receive compensation for financial losses they might face because of new tariff rules laid down by the EU-Latin America ‘banana agreement’. The one-off programme will apply to the ten main ACP banana exporting countries and aims to help make each nation’s banana market more competitive, diversify its economy outside of bananas or assist with the potential social or environmental impact of the new trade environment.


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