Banana Wars-The Price of Free Trade: A Caribbean Perspective
Bananas are taken for granted today as part of the diet of ordinarypeople in industrial countries. In the Windward Islands of the Caribbean,bananas provided around one-third of all jobs and half their export earnings -until recent WTO rulings began to undermine the industry. Much of this tradeand employment has now disappeared as a result of these rulings; and at the endof 2005, the EU is due to give up the last non-tariff measures designed toenable this trade to continue. Unemployment, poverty, and further emigrationtherefore loom over these islanders, or the tempting alternative of growing andtrading in illegal drugs. And all because WTO rules take too little account ofthe problems of tiny island economies and the human cost of rigid applicationof global free-trade rules.
In this absorbing history, Gordon Myers tells theextraordinary story of how the US government, in response to grievances of oneAmerican corporation, led the World Trade Organisation to nullify a EuropeanCommunity commitment to protect the livelihood of small Caribbean bananagrowers. The WTO's own working practices also emerge as inflexible and myopic.
The story illustrates the inadequacy of an internationaltrading system dominated by free-trade ideology but lacking the flexibility necessaryto enable very small and highly vulnerable states, like the Windward Islands,to receive the protection that they need in order to survive. Moreover,increasingly powerful supermarket chains are able to exploit this free-tradeframework to insist on ever lower prices, to the short-term benefit ofconsumers but the serious detriment of growers in the developing world.
This book is a call for new arrangements in the EU that willenable the Caribbean banana industry to survive beyond 2005, and for an outlookin the WTO that gives greater consideration to the needs of very small stateswith vulnerable economies.
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A Benevolent Empire II
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