Canary Islands banana plantation
Photo: Ana Iacob Photography
Rules to protect European Union (EU) banana growers against any surge in imports from Ecuador after its accession to a trade deal were approved by Members of European Parliament (MEPs) on Thursday.
The world’s largest banana exporter will join Colombia and Peru in the agreement, which will eliminate high tariffs and tackle technical barriers to trade.
The long-awaited trade deal was ratified in December and is expected to drive an increase in banana shipments to the region.
Concerns have been raised that the increased exports to the trade bloc could impact negative on EU growers like those in the Canary Islands.
In a release, rapporteur Marielle de Sarnez said Ecuador’s accession to the trade agreement had a “significant impact” on EU banana producers.
“It might possibly destabilise a sector which plays an essential role in the outermost regions and is responsible for 37,000 jobs,” she said before the parliamentary vote.
“It is therefore very important that our producers be better protected. From now on, they will be better informed and more involved in monitoring the market.
“Also, the [European] Commission will have a legal obligation to act if there is a surge in imports. By adopting this text, we are actively helping our outermost regions, so important for our Union.”
While Ecuador will have preferential access to the EU market, the interests of EU growers will now be “protected by a temporary stabilisation mechanism.”
A political agreement on this mechanism, which enables preferences to be suspended once an annual threshold is reached, was struck by ministers and MEPs in December.
Parliament’s negotiators also inserted an early warning system, which will be triggered when import volumes reach 80% of the threshold. If this happens, then the EU Commission will have to alert Parliament and the Council.
A similar stabilisation mechanism has been in place between the EU and Colombia/Peru since 2013, but the information flow between the Commission and Parliament was unsatisfactory, MEPs say.
A joint declaration ensures that the Commission will review the situation in two years’ time and may extend the protection mechanism, should the position of European growers worsen.
MEPs amended two regulations, governing the EU’s trade deal with Colombia and Peru and an association agreement with Central America.
The new rules were approved by 544 votes to 78, with 21 abstentions. The new rules will enter into force after the Council has also formally approved them.