The European Commission looks poised to forge ahead with plans to replace its licensing system for importing bananas with a single tariff by the end of the year.
The World Trade Organisation arbitration panel ruled earlier this month in favour of Latin American banana-producing countries, declaring that the suggested tariff of E230/tonne was too high.
But while some experts predicted the ruling would leave the reform in chaos, Brussels believes it can get things back on track next month.
Agriculture spokesman Michael Mann said: “We came to an agreement in 2001 that we would replace our current system with a single tariff
system, and that’s what we intend to do. People are banging on about retaining the old system but we are saying no to that because our intention is to introduce a single tariff system by the beginning of 2006.
“It has to be ready by January 1, so there has to be an agreement with the Latin Americans in sufficient time to allow us to put it in place for then.
“Obviously, certain other people think that it might be advantageous for them to string things out, but we want to get this resolved. In the end there has to be an agreement, and there always is, so let’s get down to it.”
The Commission will meet early next month to discuss how it will progress plans for reform.
Latin American banana producers met this week in Panama to discuss their own ideas for a solution to the on-going banana tariff problem.
Some believe an alternative to a single tariff could be adopted as a compromise.
Anne Claire Chambron of lobby group European Banana Action Network said the Latin American producer countries now favoured a degressive tariff, which would be reduced over a limited period of time to reach E75/tonne.
Greg Meenehan