European Union agriculture ministers adopted regulations for a new banana-import system, formally marking an end to a long-running dispute with the United States and Ecuador.
The new system "signals not only the end of the banana dispute but will result in the lifting of some $200 million worth of U.S. sanctions," said EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.
The new rules replace an EU system implemented in 1993 that gave preferential treatment to bananas grown in former European colonies in the Caribbean and Africa.
Two big U.S. companies--Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Dole Foods Co.--contended the system cost them almost half of their European sales, since most of their bananas come from plantations in central and South America.
Chiquita filed for bankruptcy protection last month.
The new rules will grant former colonies access to 83% of the total import quota of 2.4 million tons. Nontraditional suppliers such as Ecuador will have the remaining 17%.
In 2006, a tariff-only system will take effect.