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Last updated: 17 January, 2005 - Published 19:23 GMT
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Concern for Caribbean farmers
UK Labour MP George Foulkes
Mr Foulkes appealed to his government colleagues
British parliamentarians have expressed concerns about the implications for the Caribbean after EU price cuts on bananas and sugar are implemented.

Labour MP George Foulkes urged the government to "fight like a tiger" against the sugar price cuts while Lord Newby from the opposition Liberal Democrats said Britain must use their influence in the EU to help the Caribbean banana producers.

"They can influence the next crucial decisions on the banana regime, my plea today is that they do exert that influence for the benefit of the Caribbean banana industry as they have so consistently in the past," said Lord Newby.

Mr Foulkes also said the cuts would create havoc for the economies and affected farmers could turn growing to illegal drugs.

These concerns came just days after EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson visited the Caribbean and gave assurances to sugar producers that the EU will provide a compensation package for affected countries when the cuts are implemented.

Dr Richard Bernal, director of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery met with Mr Mandelson during his Caribbean trip and told BBC Caribbean Radio that while he also is concerned about the trend in Europe towards trade with the Caribbean, he thinks there is still hope for the Caribbean's sugar and banana industries.

"We are trying to maintain the preferential element as long as possible so that the region has the maximum time to make the transition to being exposed to greater international competition," Dr Bernal said.

"Where we have experienced problems is not so much between the EU and Cariforum countries but that the WTO ruling particularly that one related to sugar and the earlier one related to bananas has required the EU to make certain changes which have not been good for the region."

Dr Bernal explained that although WTO trade rules revolve around all countries embarking on trade liberalisation by removing all barriers, it recognises the issues affecting developing economies and allows special and differential treatment in those cases.

He felt this could give the Caribbean nations some leeway in the negotiations.

The UK's environment minister Margaret Beckett has said they were determined to ensure that the effects of EU reforms were "softened" however she also said the current price regime had kept the price of sugar three times above world level and was unsustainable.

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