Alexandra Garcés Borrero: Bananas a Case of Realpolitik


Market-Access Negotiations: The European Union / Colombia Banana Dispute.
written by: Alexandra Garcés Borrero
Université Libre De Bruxelles


This papers outlines the events surrounding the Latin American-European banana trade conflicto in the years 1993 to 1994. It describes, in particular, Colombia´s course of action through the banana negotiations that look place in the last months of the Uruguay Round (June 1993 to March 1994).

Latin American banana Exporters have long been subject to resrestrictive European Union banana import policies. With the advent of the European Single Market, Colombia´s banana industries were further injured with the creation of the “Common Market Organization” for bananas. The Single Program was Orly important in itself but as a catalyst to the banana war.

Because Colombia felt victimized by European banana import restrictions, it took the lead in challenging those practices in the General Agreement for Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations, with its emphasis on increased agricultural trade Liberalization, added further pressure to the dilema. GATT legal victories proved hollow as they would not bring about access to the European banana market. Colombia took action to reduce the harm to its economy by negotiating a Framework Agreement on bananas with the European Union.

The Framework Agreement would not be an optimal solution, It would not offer open access in a free market environment. The agreement would nevertheless guarantee continued access to the European market – limiting potencial damage to the Colombian Banana sector. The Framework Agreement was a pragmatic solution to a complex dispute. It was a compromise that ensured that Colombia Could continue to export bananas to Europe.

If Colombia’s case of ‘RealPolitik’ in the banana problem is to be appreciated, an understanding of what led to the Framework Agreement is essential. This paper concentrates primarily on Colombia’s role in this process.

Colombia’s position epitomized the Latin American “dollar banana” perspective. The “dollar banana” countries were confronted by a European market that protected higher cost European Community and African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) producers. Colombia believed, as did its Latin American neighbors, that it had a right to continued market-access in anticipation of a European free market.

Intense political pressure was brought to bear on the European Union (EU) by Latin American countries to liberalize Europe’s banana market. These efforts failed. The goal to establish a free market for bananas in Europe proved unattainable. Its ramifications were politically and commercially unacceptable to numerous powerful forces.

In view of this, Colombia developed a more pragmatic position to its “dollar banana” approach. Colombia sought to gain European concessions within a protectionist framework – to maximize opportunity despite political constraints.

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