The Banana: Empires, Trade Wars, and Globalization

The Banana: Empires, Trade Wars, and Globalization

The Banana: Empires, Trade Wars, and Globalization

The Banana: Empires, Trade Wars, and Globalization

Synopsis

The banana is the world's most important fresh fruit commodity. Little more than a century old, the global banana industry began in the late 1880s as a result of technological advances such as refrigerated shipping, which facilitated the transportation of this highly perishable good to distant markets. Since its inception the banana industry has been fraught with controversy, exhibiting many of the issues underlying the basic global economic relations that first emerged in the era of European colonialism. Perhaps more than any other agricultural product, the banana reflects the evolution of the world economy. At each stage changes in the global economy manifested themselves in the economic geography of banana production and trade. This remains true today as neoliberal imperatives drive the globalization process and mandate freer trade, influencing the patterns of the transatlantic banana trade. The Bananademystifies the banana trade and its path toward globalization. It reviews interregional relationships in the industry and the changing institutional framework governing global trade and assesses the roles of such major players as the European Union and the World Trade Organization. It also analyzes the forces driving today's economy, such as the competitiveness imperative, diversification processes, and niche market strategies. Its final chapter suggests how the outcome of the recent banana war will affect bananas and trade in other commodities sectors as well. The Bananabelies the common perception of globalization as a monolithic and irresistible force and reveals instead various efforts to resist or modify the process at local and national levels. Nevertheless, the banana does represent another step toward a globalized and industrialized agricultural economy.

Excerpt

Late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century trends toward the continuing integration of the world economy are attracting the attention of geographers and other academicians who seek to assess the impacts that globalization processes have at various geographic scales. As new associations, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), were created and others, like the European Union (EU), were broadened and deepened, the significance of trade in the global economy increased dramatically. This growth enhanced the impact of trade on places, people, and individual industries, affecting the path of development in various regions of the world. That such events occurred against the backdrop of a vastly changed institutional framework resulting from the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1994 and the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 only served to exacerbate and geographically disperse their impacts. This led to the alteration of many long-established trade patterns, including some like the Lomé Convention that linked the developed states of the global North to the less-developed countries (LDCS) of the global South.

Agriculture is one of the sectors most affected by these changes. It is certainly true that agribusiness firms from developed countries were penetrating the production systems of the ldcs from the early years of the twentieth century and that their involvement in the South expanded steadily during the post-World War II era. Nevertheless, prior to the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of talks, most international agricultural trade flows were still characterized by high levels of protectionism or were subject to other regulatory frameworks that managed the direction and volume of . . .

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