PARAMARIBO, Suriname (AP) -- Angered by the U.S. position in a trade
dispute over banana exports to Europe, Caribbean Community nations have
agreed to suspend a treaty of cooperation with the United States to fight
drug trafficking, an official said Sunday.
The treaty signed in Barbados by President Clinton in May 1997 calls for
cooperation by Caribbean nations in anti-drug trafficking measures and
extradition of suspects. But regional leaders have increasingly complained
that Washington has ignored its end of the bargain by failing to address
economic issues so important to the Caribbean.
Caricom spokesman Leonard Robertson said the decision to suspend the
treaty, often referred to as the Bridgetown accord, was seen by the
Caribbean leaders as the strongest way to send a message to Washington.
"They are frustrated," Robertson said. "For them it is a life and death
situation and they think the United States is responsible."
Caricom Secretary-General Edwin Carrington recently referred to the U.S.
position on banana exports as "like being killed by friendly fire."
The United States filed a protest last year with the World Trade
Organization over preferences given by some European countries to former
colonies in the Caribbean. The trade preferences hurt U.S.-owned
producers with huge plantations in Central and South America, the United
Smaller Caribbean producers say they cannot compete with the larger Latin
American plantations and need the preferences. At the two-day Caricom
summit, leaders complained that the United States had created an
international dispute over Caribbean exports, which amount to 2 percent of
the world trade in bananas but are crucial to the economies of several small
nations in the region.
The dispute escalated last week as the United States threatened to impose
punitive tariffs on targeted European goods ranging from coffee makers and
cashmere sweaters that would double their cost and effectively price them
out of the U.S. market.
The World Trade Organization responded by summoning all 133 member
countries to an emergency meeting Monday to discuss the spreading trade
Caribbean nations joined European Union claims that the sanctions by the
United States are illegal.
"This unauthorized and illegal action undermines the World Trade
Organization and threatens the economic survival and social and political
stability of several Caribbean countries," Caricom said in its official statement
at the end of the summit.
The Caricom decision to suspend the Bridgetown accord is the culmination
of growing dissatisfaction with U.S. policies toward the region. The good
will built by Clinton's visit to Barbados in 1997 quickly soured.
U.S. aid to the region has dropped by 90 percent since the end of the Cold
War, and Carrington has complained that Washington aggressively pursued
its priorities of drug trafficking and immigration while failing to address the
economic issues so important to small island nations.
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.