March 18, 1999

US lobbyist says Clinton betrayed Caribbean in banana dispute

                  KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) -- A U.S. lobbyist for Africa and the
                  Caribbean accused U.S. President Bill Clinton of betraying the region by
                  protesting European trade perks for bananas from its former colonies.

                  Activist Randall Robinson said Clinton lied when he pledged friendship to
                  Caribbean leaders and support for their economies at a meeting in
                  Bridgetown, Barbados in 1997.

                  "When President Clinton told you that in Bridgetown, he lied," Robinson
                  said. "He lied and he knew he was lying -- and you should have known he
                  was lying because he lied before and presidents before him lied."

                  Robinson made the comments Wednesday night in speech to government
                  ministers, academics and university students. His group, TransAfrica Forum,
                  works to influence U.S. policy toward Africa and the Caribbean.

                  The United States claims trade preferences granted to bananas produced in
                  former European colonies in Africa and the Caribbean penalize Latin
                  American producers and their U.S. distributors.

                  The United States is threatening trade sanctions on $520 million of imported
                  European goods ranging from sweaters to coffee makers unless the trade
                  benefits for Caribbean bananas are eliminated. It ordered importers this
                  month to deposit funds to cover increased tariffs.

                  The European Union, which is fighting the case before the World Trade
                  Organization in Brussels, claims the sanctions are illegal.

                  Robinson said the changes would devastate Caribbean growers and would
                  affect very few Americans. He repeated Caribbean leaders' charges that
                  Clinton is pursuing the trade battle as a favor to U.S. fruit distributors
                  Chiquita and Dole.

                  "This has nothing to do with (trade principles) -- this has to do with a
                  campaign contribution," Robinson said. "The United States has no interest at
                  stake. We employ no banana workers to speak of in the United States. No
                  Caribbean bananas are even sold in the United States."