March 7, 1999
Caribbean nations suspend treaty with US due to banana dispute

                  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
                  States contended.

                  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.