Unique solidarity between the EU outermost and ACP bananaproducing and exporting countries

(Joyce van Genderen-Naar)

The Declaration on Bananas the ACP-EU Joint Assembly adopted on 1 April 2010 in Tenerife last week, is the result of an unique solidarity between the EU outermost and ACP banana producing and exporting countries, among which the Caribbean.

In the joint declaration both EU Outermost regions and ACP countries critizised the EU policy and the EC agreement with the Latin Americans, closed by the EC at the expense of EU Outermost regions and ACP countries. The banana producers from Tenerife/Las Canarias, Guadeloupe, Martinique, the Caribbean, Africa and the Pacific expressed their common concerns. Tenerife and Las Canarias being part of Spain, said how disappointed they are in Spain were the agreement with the Latin Americans will be signed in May 2010.

They called upon the EU to stop this, or else the economies of the Canarias, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Caribbean, Africa and Pacific banana producing and exporting countries will be destroyed. No one understands why the EU is doing this. The Caribbean representatives said that not only bananas, but also rum and sugar, and everything else that is functioning well in the Caribbean is in danger because of EU measures.

As said in the Declaration:
“The European Parliament seriously considers the impact of the issues raised in this declaration before giving its consent to the bananas agreement.”

The role of the European Parliament is strengthened by the Lisbon Treaty, which means that the role of civil society (CS) is strengthened too. The Eur. Parl. consults the CS before agreeing on Trade Agreements and EU policy with regard to trade relations, economic and other commercial EU interests. Which means that representatives of interest groups and organizations have to discuss their interests and concerns with the Members of European Parliament if they want them to support their case. So we have to lobby more in Brussels. That is what the Latin Americans have been doing and their strong voices are heard.

The EC defends its policy by saying that the Latin American countries are so poor, more than the Caribbean, and that they depend on the banana export. A very weak argument, because the profits of the multinationals, Chiquita etc., are not for the benefit of the poor people of Latin America who are exploited by these multinationals, that are not respecting labour standards. In a EC meeting on 16 March 2010 in Brussels the International Trade Unions asked the EC not to close Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, because it is the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists: over 60% of all trade unionists killed in the world are Colombian, 128 Colombian Trade Unionists were assassinated between 2007-2009. That should also be brought forward with regard to the banana agreement between the EC and Colombia.

So what we could and should do is defend our countries’ and populations’ interest through debates in parliaments (national and on EU-ACP level), with members of Parliaments (national and EU-ACP), in the media, newspapers, at Universities, etc. We have to lobby more.


DECLARATION on the EU-Latin America Bananas Agreement and its impact on ACP and EU banana producers(ES)


The EU-Latin America bananas agreement and its impact on ACP and EU banana producers

The deal

A. In December 2009 the EU came to an agreement within the WTO with the US and Latin American producers to put an end to the long-running dispute on bananas.

B. The deal will mean significant tariff cuts (35% between 2010 and 2017 at the earliest) for non-ACP imports and, as a result, it will harm the
competitiveness of  ACP and EU producers.

C. Moreover, the EU is currently holding bilateral talks with certain Latin American countries, with a view to signing free-trade agreements, which may lead to significant further tariff reductions and considerably reduce any supposed benefits to ACP banana producers derived from EPAs.

D. Bananas are the world’s fourth biggest agricultural export. The EU market accounts for over a third of all imports.

E. Multinationals operating in Latin America control over 80% of the global market.

F. In 2008, 72% of the bananas sold in Europe were already from Latin America,whereas bananas from ACP countries and the EU only represented 17% and 10.5% respectively. Virtually all ACP banana exports go to the EU, while Latin American countries also export to North and South America and Russia.

G. Banana production has a major impact on local communities, not only in economic terms, but also as regards the environment, migration, gender and labour standards.

H. In some Latin American countries banana production by multinationals has been linked to a high level of human rights violations.

I. The agreement will enter into force if and when the European Parliament gives its consent and the Council authorises its conclusion.

The impact

J. The effects of the agreement, which is an attempt to match sustainable development objectives with WTO obligations, are already starting to be

K. ACP producers will be hit hard as they lose a significant part of their tariff protection. Some ACP countries, which depend heavily on banana exports, may see their export industries disappear altogether with dire social and economic consequences.

L. Without proper accompanying measures, European banana producing regions, some of which are among the poorest in the EU and already face high unemployment, will also pay a hefty socioeconomic price.

M. The multinationals will benefit enormously at the expense of EU/ACP small-scale farming communities.

N. ACP and European banana producing regions will need more financial support to maintain this key economic activity in order to compete with bananas from regions with very low levels of salaries, social conditions and  environmental rules.

O. The move towards ever-cheaper bananas is likely to lead to a race to the bottom in terms of labour standards, including child labour, environmental protection, corruption and tax evasion in the banana sector.

P. The European Commission has put together a support package for ACP producers (banana accompanying measures), worth ?190 million over four years, with an extra ?10 million depending on certain conditions. This support does not take into account further tariff cuts resulting from bilateral trade agreements with Latin American countries.

Q. The new concessions made to Colombia and Peru and already requested by Central American countries go much further than those included in the recent agreement and may destabilise other countries in the region, as well as the economies of other banana producers in ACP countries and in the EU.

R. No additional support is foreseen for EU producers, particularly from the outermost regions.

The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, recalling that policy coherence for development is now enshrined in the Lisbon treaty, demands that:

1. The Commission conducts an economic, social and environmental impact assessment of the EU-Latin America bananas agreement for ACP and EU banana
producers, as provided for in Declaration XXIII of the Cotonou Agreement;

2. The Commission fairly considers increasing the financial package to help ACP and European producers adjust to the new regime and speeds up disbursement
of these funds;

3. The Commission considers specific additional financial and technical assistance to ACP countries to address social and environmental effects, supply-side constraints and promoting diversification beyond 2013;

4. The EU brings forward measures to help heavily banana-dependent states to diversify their economies, including more aid-for-trade, fulfilling EC and Member States’ aid-for-trade pledges of ?1 billion each (with 50% available for ACP countries);

5. The Commission provides support to offset losses incurred by EU producers,gradually puts in place measures to encourage sustainable banana production
in the EU and ensures the effective application of the banana safeguard clause in bilateral and multilateral trade agreements;

6. Any new tariff cuts under bilateral trade agreements with Latin American nations over and above the WTO agreement possibly give rise to adequate compensatory measures;

7. The Commission provides ACP and EU producers with genuine legal certainty on the future of the banana trade regime and that the EP and ACP national parliaments continue to monitor this issue closely;

8. EU and ACP authorities step up their efforts to ensure that all banana producing nations effectively apply all aspects of the ILO’s decent labour agenda;

9. The Commission raises awareness on ethical trading to discourage European retailers from importing bananas from producers with inadequate policies on
tax evasion, corruption, labour standards and human rights violations;

10. The European Parliament seriously considers the impact of the issues raised in this declaration before giving its consent to the bananas agreement.


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