Jamaican leader assails U.S. `war' on bananas
"What has prompted the United States administration to take so hostile
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
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
In recent years U.S. aid to Caribbean nations has fallen from some dlrs
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.