In another significant sign of movement, Latin American banana producers yesterday accepted an EU offer to cut import tariffs by 35%, from €176 per tonne of bananas to €114 per tonne by 2016 with an immediate reduction to €148 next year. Costa Rica’s delegate, Ronald Saborio Soto, said the breakthrough could end what he described as “the 16-year banana war”, while Celso Amorim, Brazil’s foreign minister, hailed the agreement as “historic”.There is, though, a large banana peel on which the talks could slip up: the demands of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) banana producers, who have for decades been able to export bananas to European markets without paying import duties. Under the Latin American-EU deal, ACP producers – in all, about 80 countries – would retain that privilege. However, they are demanding that the cut in tariffs on Latin American bananas should be slower than the EU has proposed, in order to give their producers more time to adjust. Clifford Paul Marica, Surinam’s minister for trade, said the terms of the agreement would put his country’s banana industry in serious difficulty.Other signs of progressAgreement on tropical products – another issue that has pitted Latin American countries against ACPs, which fear losing their preferential access to EU markets – is also reportedly close to a breakthrough. Crawford Falconer, who is chairing the talks on agriculture, said on 27 July that there was an “emerging consensus”. The EU’s desire to extend its register of “geographical indications” – labels on place-specific products such as Parma ham – from the European market to international markets has met with strong opposition from the US. Peter Mandelson, the European commissioner for trade, said, however, that “there appears finally to be an opening” on the EU’s demand for an international GI register. Problem areas Trade negotiators have made significant progress towards achieving a global deal to bring down barriers to trade in agricultural and manufactured products, but, with just two days to go before talks called by the World Trade Organization (WTO) are scheduled to end, major differences still threaten to scupper a deal. In one of the key moves, the EU would lower farm subsidies by 80% and the US would make a 70% cut. The EU had, however, already been planning to cut subsidies and the proposed US ceiling – $14.5 billion a year – is less than it provided its farmers last year. The EU and the US have also offered to open their markets to migrant workers, with the EU offering 80,000 temporary work visas and the US saying it is willing to increase the number of sectors in which foreign workers can be employed.An end to the “banana wars”? But progress is stalled in some areas. Susan Schwab, the US’s trade representative, warned on 27 July that some emerging economies are attempting to “rebalance” some proposals related to non-agricultural goods. China, for example, is calling for key sectors such as chemicals to be exempt from a deal.The question of subsidies for cotton subsidies also remains in an impasse, Mariann Fischer Boel, the European commissioner for agriculture, warned on 27 July. The US has refused to lower its cotton subsidy rates, while countries including Benin and Chad say the US subsidies undermine their cotton producers. Another problem lies with the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM), a tool that would allow developing countries to raise import tariffs if imports of specific agricultural products surged. Pascal Lamy, the head of the WTO, proposed that the minimum increase in import volumes before the mechanism is triggered should be set at 40%. Developing countries want the rate to be 30%.New texts on agricultural and industry tariffs are due to be released today.