The world's longest trade dispute could be over after it emerged a deal on EU banana imports should be signed today (15 December) in Geneva.

Diplomats at the WTO and officials at the European Commission have told just-food that the EU, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the US are poised to strike a long-awaited agreement.

WTO disputes proceedings have been staged on EU banana import protection since 1996, almost as long as the WTO has existed.

Latin exporters and US-based fruit companies have been fighting the preferential access to EU markets given to Caribbean bananas (and those from Africa and the Pacific), which enter as duty-free, although this special treatment would continue after the deal.

It is expected to see the EU immediately cut import duties on Central and South American bananas from EUR176 a tonne to EUR148 a tonne. The duty will be further reduced to EUR114 a tonne over the next seven years.

A Geneva diplomat joked to just-food: "It's the end of the World Trade Organisation as we know it."