A six-year trade dispute between the US and the European Union came to a head on Wednesday, when the Clinton administration slapped 100 percent tariffs on about $520 million worth of European exports to the US (with the notable exceptions of wine and Mercedes Benz cars.) The root of the quarrel is Europe's import rules for bananas, which Washington claims favor bananas from former Caribbean colonies over those from Central American companies, many of which are owned by major US firms. Although the amount involved is only a fraction of total European exports to the US, the list of products targeted by the tariffs was carefully crafted to include products from nearly all of the EU's fifteen member countries. While neither the US nor Europe actually produces bananas, US officials reportedly see this move as an important symbolic gesture to demonstrate that the US will retaliate if it believes the EU is not abiding to the letter and spirit of trade rules. For its part, the EU has reacted with surprise and anger, filing a complaint today with the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO will convene an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the dispute. The sites listed provide information on this dispute.
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