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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Cautions U.S. Against Sanctions

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union warned the United States on Tuesday not to impose trade sanctions to counter the EU's banana import regime, saying it would complain to the World Trade Organization if Washington does not back down.

EU Foreign Trade Commissioner Sir Leon Brittan said the EU, unlike the United States, would not take any unilateral action outside the WTO. "We will follow the system. We are loyal to the WTO," he said at a news conference.

The commissioner reiterated the view expressed by French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on Monday that if the United States persists in carrying out sanctions, they could damage a trans-Atlantic plan designed to prevent trade disputes between the two sides.

"I believe this dispute is not really about bananas. What has been done has been done for political reasons, because of congressional pressure," Brittan said.

"The fact that we have disputes with the U.S. is quite normal. What is important is that the settlement of the dispute should be under multilateral trade rules," Brittan said.

Over the weekend, the United States warned of punitive action if the 15-nation EU does not change its banana trade system, which Washington claims unfairly favors imports from former European colonies.

The United States is unhappy with the EU's efforts so far to respond to last year's negative WTO ruling on the banana regime, which grants favorable treatment to a number of African, Caribbean, and Pacific region countries.

The WTO suit championed banana growers in Latin America who felt discriminated by the regime.

The EU approved new import regulations in an attempt to remedy the situation and bring it into line with WTO regulations.

But the United States and Latin Americans claim that the system is still discriminatory.

Last month, the U.S. administration outlined possible retaliation against the European Union if the EU defies a rulings by the World Trade Organization on the international banana trade.

Brittan said that Washington would issue a preliminary list of EU products this week on which the United States will impose sanctions to retaliate against the banana import regime.

If Washington goes ahead with the move, EU countries are expected to respond in kind, raising the specter of a trans-Atlantic trade war, EU officials said.

"If the U.S. goes down the unilateral road, we believe it would have extremely damaging consequences" for the trans-Atlantic relationship, EU foreign trade spokesman Nigel Gardner said Monday.