WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The United States said Sunday it had lifted $191 million of sanctions on exports from the European Union after an agreement three months ago to end an eight-year transatlantic banana war.
"The EU has complied with the first phase of the understanding, and so today the United States will lift its WTO-authorized retaliatory duties," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a statement.
"This process represents a serious effort by the United States and the EU to manage our differences in a spirit of mutual respect, understanding and constructive action," he said.
The United States argued that the EU's banana import system favored growers in its territories and former European colonies in the Caribbean over Latin American producers and U.S. marketing companies such as Chiquita Brands International and Dole Food Co..
The United States imposed sanctions on EU goods in 1999 after the World Trade Organization ruled that the EU's banana import policies broke world trade rules. The sanctions hit a range of European goods including handbags, bed linen and batteries.
Under the agreement reached in April, the EU agreed to scrap plans to introduce a first-come-first-served system of distributing banana import licenses. Instead, licenses will be allotted based on the way they were distributed during a "historical reference period" of 1994-96.
The banana spat was just one of many trade disputes between the United States and the EU in recent years. On the agricultural front, the two sides have sparred over beef and over crops using biotechnology.