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Uniting Food, Farm and Hotel Workers World-Wide

IUF Warns of New 'Banana War' in WTO Challenge to EU Banana Regime, Calls for Rights-Based Global Rules

Posted to the IUF website 22-Apr-2005

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The IUF has warned of the serious social consequences that would follow on a new "banana war" in response to the move by nine Latin American banana-producing countries to challenge the European Union's proposed new tariff regulations for imported bananas. "A tariff-only solution will inevitably favour low cost producers, pit one group of workers against another and generate additional competition to further lower standards", said IUF General Secretary Ron Oswald. "The corporate program animating this WTO action is a continuation of the banana wars of the 1990's, whose only beneficiary was large transnational producers, marketers and retail giants seeking to further depress costs at the expense of hundreds of thousands of workers and small farmers in the sector. A solution must be found which can ensure sustainable living and working conditions in producer countries. That solution will have to be based on rights rather than commercial advantage."

Developments at the WTO, said Oswald, suggest that it is not a suitable vehicle for defending these rights. The IUF and its affiliates are therefore exploring global mechanisms to support social and environmental progress in the banana sector in the EU and globally. As part of this process, the IUF and its affiliated banana workers unions are taking part in the Second International Banana Conference which will be held in Brussels from April 28-30 this year. Organized to reverse the "race to the bottom" which has been driving developments in the sector, the Conference will bring together unions, governments, national and transnational companies, cooperatives, consumers and civil society organizations to develop alternatives to the current global banana system. Among the issues to be explored are: mechanisms to enforce trade union rights for workers in all producer countries; limiting the impact of supermarket and retail pressure in the context of advancing social and environmental standards; supply-management agreements to stabilize prices; and viable rules for a rights-based EU banana import regime to encourage sustainable production, fair prices and a living wage for workers.

Further information about the Second International Banana Conference is available on the internet in English, French and Spanish at www.ibc2.org