March 21, 1999

Jamaican leader assails U.S. `war' on bananas

                  MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (AP) -- In a reflection of mounting anger at the
                  United States throughout the Caribbean, Jamaica's leader charged Sunday
                  that the U.S. assault on the region's banana exports is a threat to the survival
                  of some nations.

                  "What has prompted the United States administration to take so hostile a
                  position to countries as small as we are and as vulnerable as we are?" asked
                  Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, addressing a meeting of the Inter-American
                  Press Association.

                  Patterson's bitter comments -- he described the U.S. position as the "first
                  skirmish" of a "world war" on the global trade regime -- reflected broader
                  malaise in a region which during the Cold War was a U.S. darling and now
                  feels abandoned.

                  In recent years U.S. aid to Caribbean nations has fallen from some dlrs 200
                  million a year to a tenth of that.

                  Now Caribbean leaders are incensed over U.S. efforts to get the World
                  Trade Organization to revoke preferences given by some European
                  countries to former colonies in the region.

                  Washington says the preferences hurt U.S.-owned producers with huge
                  plantations in Central and South America. Caribbean leaders say they are
                  critical to keeping their vital banana industry viable during a difficult period,
                  and emphasize that Caribbean bananas make up only 1 percent of world

                  Jamaica, which already suffers from widespread poverty, high
                  unemployment, low growth and spiraling crime, depends on bananas for 10
                  percent of its economy, Patterson told The Associated Press. But in eastern
                  Caribbean islands the figure is between 40 and 70 percent.

                  The U.S. position, he maintained, "is a very, very serious threat to the
                  survival of many of the countries: the eastern Caribbean (islands), Jamaica,

                  "We have to take very concerted action to resist what is happening,"
                  Patterson said, without elaborating.

                  One possible response could come at a Caribbean summit in July, when
                  Caribbean leaders are expected to discuss calls to suspend a treaty on
                  helping the United States fight drug trafficking. Earlier this month, they
                  decided to "review" the treaty, which allows U.S. law enforcers to pursue
                  suspected drug traffickers into their territorial waters and airspace.

                  Jamaica was the last Caribbean nation to sign the treaty. Patterson waited
                  until after Caribbean leaders met with Clinton in Barbados in 1997, and
                  were given "the most explicit assurance" their banana interests would be
                  protected, he said.

                  The dispute escalated further this month as the United States ordered
                  importers to deposit funds to cover pending sanctions on dlrs 520 million
                  worth of targeted goods imported from the European Union. Caribbean
                  nations joined the European Union in charging that the sanctions were illegal.