HC Deb 21 January 1998 vol 304 cc556-7W
Mr. Mitchell

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions she had with members of the European Commission on the presidency's policy on future markets for Associated African and Caribbean States of the European Community, concerning the marketing of bananas; and what estimates Her Majesty's Government have made of the likely loss of income to small farmers arising from recent negotiations conducted by the Commission with the World Trade Organisation. [24050]

Clare Short

I have discussed this issue with Commissioner Pinheiro during his recent visit to London at the start of the UK Presidency and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has also had discussions with the Commission.

Although it was disappointing that some parts of the regime have been found incompatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, the ruling did not exclude all preferences for the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) banana producers. Work undertaken by the Government shows that the impact of the WTO ruling on the ACP banana producing countries will vary according to the details of the new arrangements which are put in place to comply with the WTO ruling.

The Commission has recently put forward some proposals to modify the EU banana regime; these are now being considered by member states. It is therefore not yet possible to make an estimate of the impact of the WTO ruling. None the less it seems likely that the Caribbean banana industry will face rather increased competition. There are plans to improve the competitiveness of the banana industry in the Windward islands and to provide EU funding to assist this adjustment.

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