In mid-December, the EU reached accord with Latin American countries on the banana tax. This was the longest-running WTO dispute and is the subject of Chapter 3 in Chad Bown's Self-Enforcing Trade. In “An Introduction to WTO Dispute Settlement,” Bown uses the EC–Bananas III dispute to introduce the WTO’s formal trade dispute resolution process:
The fundamental economic interest that boiled over into a formal trade dispute in the early 1990s involved foreign access to the European import market for bananas—the world’s largest banana market with imports of roughly $2.5 billion per year. While the trade dispute on which I focus erupted in the early 1990s, the issue of EC banana imports has been politically contentious on the domestic front (that is, between EC member states) dating back to the 1950s and the Treaty of Rome. Until the early 1990s, member states had different and divergent external trade policies toward bananas. . . . The different trade policies of EC member states toward the same product managed to coexist until 1993 when, after politically rancorous internal negotiations, the members finally converged on a single, European Community–wide import regime for bananas. The new import policy, known as Regulation 404, was essentially a tariff rate quota. The quota divvied up the EC import market and established one quantitative import limit allocated to ACP producers and another to non-ACP producers (mainly Latin American exporters). Bananas coming in under the quota available to Latin American exporters would be subject to an import tariff that was not applied to imports from the ACP countries.
According to Bloomberg News, Latin American countries are the clear winners of the dispute. As a result of the settlement, banana prices in the EU will drop and exports from Latin America will rise.
- Read more about the settlement of the banana case from Bloomberg and the Financial Times
- Learn more about Self-Enforcing Trade
- Download Chapter 3 of Self-Enforcing Trade to learn the background on this issue