(Adds quote, background)
BRUSSELS, Aug 28 (Reuters) - The European Commission will appeal against a World Trade Organisation ruling that found the EU’s import regime for bananas breaks international trade rules, it said in a statement on Thursday.
A WTO panel found that Brussels was giving preferential treatment to bananas imported from Europe’s former colonies, following a complaint from the United States.
“The EC has today notified the WTO that it will appeal the panel reports on the banana cases brought by Ecuador and the U.S.,” the Commission said. The Commission, the European Union executive, negotiates foreign trade for the EU’s 27 countries.
Brussels had been asked to comply with the panel reports by Aug. 29. Ecuador is the world’s largest banana exporter.
The United States itself does not export bananas to the EU, but three of the biggest distributors with plantations in Latin America are U.S. multinationals — Chiquita Brands International Inc CQB.N, Del Monte Foods Co DLM.N and Dole Food Co.
The United States, along with Latin American countries, has long complained that the EU banana import regime favours fruit suppliers in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) country group: mainly ex-colonies of Britain, France and Portugal.
“The Commission has devoted huge energy over recent months to finding a mutually agreed settlement to the long running dispute,” the statement said, referring to a tariff deal struck with Latin America during WTO Doha Round negotiations in July that never came to fruition because the wider talks failed.
The EU has been at loggerheads with the Latin American exporters for over a decade because it offers preferential terms to exporters in former European colonies.
In January 2006, the EU replaced a complex system of import quotas and tariffs for bananas with a single-rate duty of 176 euros ($260) a tonne: a WTO agreement struck to end the 1990s “banana wars” which Europe lost to the United States and Ecuador.
Before the new regime kicked in, Latin American exporters paid 75 euros per tonne, under quota, to get fruit into Europe. Anything over that faced a prohibitive duty of 680 euros.
Since then, the Latin Americans have been pushing hard to get the 176-euro level reduced as much as possible, angering ACP exporters such as Cameroon and Ivory Coast which do not want to lose EU market share to cheaper fruit from Latin America. (Reporting by Jeremy Smith; Editing by Dale Hudson)