HC Deb 24 June 1999 vol 333 cc424-5W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the tariffs imposed by the United States on European Union goods as a result of the banana dispute. [87506]

Mr. Wilson

The point at issue in this dispute is the compatibility of the EU's banana import regime with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

This regime was revised during 1998 to take account of the earlier adverse WTO rulings, but the WTO Panel ruled on 12 April that the revised regime is still not fully WTO-compliant. In addition, the WTO arbitrator determined that the annual loss to the US from the current regime is $191.4 million. On 19 April, the US was given formal WTO authority to retaliate up to that level.

The US issued a revised retaliation list on 9 April removing several sectors which had been included on an earlier list. Whilst this scaling down was welcome, we remain acutely aware that many UK businesses are adversely affected by the retaliation still in effect.

We are continuing to make representations to the US about the harm which is being caused to UK businesses in the affected sectors.

We are also continuing to press for the EU to work with the US and other interested parties to achieve an early end to this unnecessary damage to business. We are pressing for further intensive consultations with all the parties involved on the options for reforming the banana regime, in order to make it unambiguously compatible with the WTO.