Social Issues / Banana Wars: European Globalization And The Effect On The Caribbean

Banana Wars: European Globalization And The Effect On The Caribbean

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Autor:  anton  07 May 2011
Tags:  Banana,  European,  Globalization,  Effect,  Caribbean
Words: 2262   |   Pages: 10
Views: 762

The world today is continually becoming more and more advanced through the development of new technology and scientific data. This incremental process has sped up dramatically in the last two decades as technological advances make it easier for people to travel, communicate, and do business internationally. Thus, Europe has been a leader in this advancement and has contributed greatly to the process the world calls globalization. “Globalization is an objective, empirical process of increasing economic and political connectivity, a subjective process unfolding in consciousness as the collective awareness of growing global interconnectedness, and a shot of specific globalizing project that seek to shape global conditions.” Europe has followed all the examples in this definition and has been a key contributor, along with the United States, to connecting many countries economically. An important aspect in globalization and world economies is trade relations. Through the implementation of trade organizations, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Single Market Act and North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), countries are able to trade freely in order to boost their economies. However, as seen in the Caribbean, Europe and other world powers have abused the world trade systems, leaving these small nation-states vulnerable and dependent. One case in particular that abuses world trade relations is the banana import establishment. The dispute between the European Union (EU), the United States and the Caribbean over the banana import regime shows that an agreement prescribed to help the small banana growers of the Caribbean nations were overridden by corporate and supranational interests supported by international trade rules. Therefore, the bananas coming out of the Caribbean have both helped and hurt the economy, but more importantly helps explain Europe’s globalization motives and the effect it has in the Caribbean.

European countries and the Caribbean have had a relationship ever since Christopher Columbus discovered the region in 1492. With an imperialistic attitude Europe sought out to colonize the Caribbean community for production of goods in order to benefit themselves rather than the Caribbean civilians. From the point of view of the Europeans they believed the Caribbean was weak and needed to be colonized and changed. Therefore, in their viewpoint it was the European’s right to impose and dominate with violence if necessary in order to promote the ideals and traditions of the Europeans. It was not too long after the Europeans arrived that they were able to colonize the Caribbean which allowed European traditions, communities, and myths to strive. The Europeans were ridding all the traditions the indigenous people tried to establish and doing it in a corrupt manner. In addition, with the European belief in Social Darwinism, where the white race is supreme to all other races, it is not a surprise that they were able to establish their views on the predominantly black Caribbean. Thus, the Europeans were able to establish the ideology of a superior white race in the society, which has allowed and small-nation states in the South Atlantic to abide by the sometimes unfair European standards.

Moving centuries ahead in history, Europe has used its colonial authority to carry out its globalization methods and hold a powerful role in trade relations in the modern world. This has forced the Caribbean to rely on the decisions made by European countries because they are essentially in control of the political economy and global market. The states in the Caribbean find it necessary to maintain their relations with the Europeans because the Caribbean does not have enough capital to compete with foreign companies and industries. In addition, they do not have enough capital to execute a lone economic programme. “Many of the Caribbean’s smaller economies are heavily dependent upon one (or a few) traditional export commodities for which world prices are not likely to rise.” In particular, the main export goods in the Caribbean are bananas, where it relies on this natural resources to be a main contributor to the Caribbean economy. The exportation of bananas however, has caused much more controversy than expected and has caused many problems for both the European Union and the Caribbean.

The European banana program originated in the Lomé Convention, a series of trade and economic cooperation agreements between the European Union and several Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries. The Lomé Conventions, first implemented in 1975, granted “trade provisions (that) included duty-free entry for many agricultural products important to the ACP, improved access for most other agricultural imports, and special protective measures for a few key commodities, such as bananas, sugar, and rum.” To further integrate Caribbean counties the European Banana Regime established in 1993, included various preferential trade agreements, remnants of European colonialism which facilitated banana imports into several European nations. One of its stated aims was to assist banana producers operating out of certain former European colonies. Essentially the program reserved a relatively small quota of banana imports for these former colonies.

The United States, after considerable prodding from Chiquita which has one of two major banana-trading companies with headquarters in the United States, took issue with the expressed altruism of the Europeans. The US complaint charged that the EU banana regime actually operated to deny American banana companies full access to European markets was in violation of fundamental free trade principles developed in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). In 1997, the WTO sided with the United States and ruled that the EU must change its preferential policy. In addition, “the WTO subsequently authorized the US to impose sanctions of $191 million on a range of EU exports to the US.” The EU originally resisted the ruling because banana production in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific is not competitive with the major companies in Latin America. Moreover, the EU argues that the 1975 Lomé Convention entitles it to aid signatory countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific colonies for which “banana production generates up to 70 percent of total export earnings and up to a third of all jobs.” According to the European Commission, however, “these countries account for less than a third of the 3.9 million metric tons of bananas annually consumed in Europe; Latin America accounts for over two-thirds.”

As seen above, the banana wars were about much more than bananas in the fact that they made trade regulations and restricted policies between Europe and the Caribbean. This left Caribbean countries whose bananas entered Europe especially vulnerable to the combined superpower-multinational corporate assault on their economic stability. The Caribbean countries went so far to “plead that the program was critical to their survival as independent, viable modernizing societies.” “For some of the affected countries, like Dominica and St. Lucia, banana sales to Europe accounted for as much as fifty percent of their total exports.”

The banana dispute illustrates the key role that the WTO and other trade organizations play in defending Europe’s economic globalization. Europe, in the age of globalization is seen as a leader in policies that integrate regions through trade and other similar policies. As a leader in the globalization process, the initiative to assist former European colonies by the banana regime was a positive example to include developing nations into the large global scheme of trade. The only way the Caribbean could be integrated in the globalization is through a super-power like Europe because the regions has limited natural resources, vulnerability to natural hazards and economic fragility. In addition, the WTO today is interested in the efficiency of the market rather than the benefit of all nation-states. In the end, Europe’s attempts to include the Caribbean in trade relations were forced to end by world trade organizations in order to benefit the greater good of the world economy rather than the small-nation states in the Caribbean.

The question to ask now is if it is possible for Europe to completely include the Caribbean in its globalization process, or if it is too late for the developing nations to be included. Although Europe has tried to include the Caribbean in its integration process, Europe was not able to fully integrate the Caribbean in its globalization process because of the greater interests in the economy of Europe and the rest of the world. In addition, the European Union currently has been focused process on its own integration process rather than the involvement of the smaller nation-states in the Caribbean. The original goal of Europe’s internal integration process and development of the European Union was a political process in order to strengthen Europe while eliminating the chance of another World War. Therefore, common economic bounds were formed initially in order to connect the countries economies, which eventually built many supranational ties with all of the European nation-states.

Europe’s current integration process included the creation of a Single Market with a common currency. The Single Market program was a response to the crisis of European global competitiveness so the members of the European Union could be guaranteed free movement of goods, services, people, and capital. “The economic advantages of a single market lie in increasing economies of scale, specialization, agglomeration effects and industrial investment, to interdict.” In addition to the Single Market, the promotion of a common currency has boosted Europeans internal globalization process, also allowing Europeans to exchange goods freely and form another common identity. However, the driving principle behind the European integration and globalization has always been different in one fundamental respect: a united Europe was wanted politically, while globalization was induced by the market and through technological achievements. European integration was based and remains based on the assumption that politics shall bring nations and states together. Globalization is understood as a process where the market brings people together. Therefore, European integration followed very much a top-down approach while globalization stems primarily from a bottom-up approach. These two concepts could seem to be troubling not just for the member states in the European Union, but also regions like the Caribbean who are trying to be involved in the globalization process.

The different takes on European integration and the globalization process have resulted in mixed views from the nation-states within the European boundaries and the effect it has on the Caribbean. In the absence of cohesive governance structures the European Union can continuously and easily be blamed by member state governments and oppositions alike as being either incompetent or too penetrating into the national or regional prerogatives rather than worldly affairs. “As long as EU governance structures are less than optimal in terms of coherence, transparency, efficiency and democratic accountability, it will always remain rather abstract to discuss whether the EU institutions absorb enough or already too much loyalty.” The European Union has only begun to link its ambition of governance to the desires, hopes and concerns of its citizens and other binding countries. Therefore, the European Union does not even have the formal structure in its system to include the small nation-states in the Caribbean.

With so many views on the integration process in Europe, the European Union is having a difficult time satisfying each member in Europe let alone the Caribbean region. Thus, when dealing with the globalization process, the EU is forced to choose the outcome that is for the greater good of Europe. The European banana regime originally could be seen as an integration process, where Europe was trying to include the Caribbean into their economy. However, the Caribbean did not have much to give to the European economy with the production of bananas, and this was taken noticed by the World Trade Organization. When the WTO heard complaints from the United States that the EU was infringing on the world economy, the WTO immediately tried to fit the needs of the US. The reason for this is because by taking the United State’s side, the world economy would receive greater results financially. This forced the European Union to eliminate the Caribbean from their integration process and hinder the development of this struggling region even more.

The banana wars were a way that tried to include outside nation-states in an integration process that is yet to be completed. With greater powers forcing the EU to eliminate this tie, the Caribbean is now amidst a society that is dominant and forceful on their developing region. The World Trade Organization, United States, and essentially the European Union were not concerned with the integration of the Caribbean in the globalization process but were concerned with the best result in a world that is driven by the economy. It is not likely that the Caribbean will be included in the world economy substantially in the near future. The European Union is still concerned first and foremost with its homeland integration process and the greater good of its member states. The WTO and United States will also continue to look for what best suits the world economy. So until the European Union or another country finds it necessary to include the Caribbean in its integration process, the people in the Caribbean will try and survive on exporting bananas in a world that sees there people being no more beneficial than to do just that.

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