Organization of American States ..............................News Release


IN MAIDEN SPEECH TO OAS, ST. LUCIAN ENVOY REVISITS BANANA ISSUE

February 4, 1998

Ambassador Sonia Johnny, St. Lucia's new permanent representative at the Organization of American States (OAS), today stated her country's concern over a World Trade Organization (WTO) decision that will change a special regime under which European Union countries import Caribbean bananas. This decision will affect one of the major industries of Caribbean.

Bananas formed the "bedrock" of those economies, she said, declaring how vital that industry was to the region. If the industry were destroyed, massive unemployment and general economic devastation would set in. More than 50 per cent of her own country's earnings come from bananas, she said. In issuing a note of caution, she explained that a blow to the Caribbean banana industry could make drug trafficking "appear as a viable alternative to out-of-work banana producers."

Delivering her maiden presentation to the OAS Permanent Council of ambassadors, the St. Lucian diplomat asserted the St. Lucian and Caribbean position that more time was needed for their economies to adjust. "The OAS can play an important role in working with us during our period of rehabilitation."

She also stressed that the St. Lucian government was committed to the hemispheric body and its agenda on promoting democracy, poverty eradication, and fighting illegal drugs among a wide range of vital issues for the hemisphere.

The St. Lucian envoy was one of four new ambassadors to speak before the Council today, for the first time. The others were from Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala, and Bolivia.

The Council was also addressed by the European Union's vice president, Mr. Manuel Marín, who has responsibility for relations with Latin America.


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