Banana Wars-The Price of Free Trade: A Caribbean Perspective

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Zed Books, Nov 6, 2004 - Business & Economics - 191 pages

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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The Beginnings
A Benevolent Empire

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About the author (2004)

Gordon Myers, CMG, is a former senior British civil servant who, since 1993, has worked with the Caribbean Banana Exporters Association (CBEA) in trying to defend the interests of Caribbean banana growers who depend on the European market. His service in the former Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) (1951-89) included two periods dealing with crises in the Caribbean banana trade in 1970-73 and 1982-84. From 1975 to 1979, he was seconded to the Foreign Office to serve in the UK Permanent Representation to the EEC. Following retirement, he acted as Special Adviser to the British House of Commons Agriculture Committee during its inquiry into the negotiations for a single European market regime for bananas.

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