The agreement signed on Thursday ended the longest-running series of disputes in multilateral trading system history. Tariffs, currently at €136/ton (MT) (US$173.32/MT), will lower annually until reaching €114/MT (US$144.27/MT) on January 1, 2017.
The accord also includes the 2009 Geneva Banana Agreement, which sought to settle banana trade disputes centered on how the E.U. treated exporting nations. A number of legal disputes have followed the agreement, which has now been revised and made multilateral by WTO membership.
The current dispute began in 1991 when Costa Rica expressed concern at a meeting for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, now the WTO, that a pending E.U. banana import regime would discriminate against Central American countries. In 1992, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela requested consultation with the EU which failed.
Legal disputes have continued since, leading up to this week's agreement, signed by Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela.
WTO director Pascal Lamy described the agreement as a historical moment.
“After so many twists and turns, these complicated and politically contentious disputes can finally be put to bed. It has taken so long that quite a few people who worked on the cases, both in the Secretariat and in member governments have retired long ago,” Lamy said.
If no framework is agreed upon at the Doha Round agriculture negotiations by December 31, 2013, the tariff cuts can be delayed for up to two years.