wto case studies

Under the “Lome Convention” the EU used to agree to buy 8% of it’s bananas from former colonies in the Caribbean. These banana sales are crucial to the livelihoods of 200,000 people in countries where unemployment rates are 30-50%. [1]
In the Windward Island nations of St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 94% of all banana exports go to the EU and bananas account for 63% to 91% of all export earnings.[2]

The Chiquita Company is a U.S. company that owns banana plantations in Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama where thousands of underpaid workers are exposed to dangerous pesticides and unions are banned. Chiquita supplies 50% of the EU’s banana imports each year, but wants an even larger market share. Chiquita grows no bananas in the US, but few days after the corporation donated $500,000 to the Democratic Party the Clinton/Gore administration filed a complaint with the WTO on behalf of Chiquita. The WTO ruled in favor of the U.S. and Chiquita. The EU initially refused to comply with the WTO ruling, Chiquita then donated $350,000 to the Republican Party and the Republican-dominated Congress prepared legislation to impose tariffs on goods imported from the EU as punishment for refusing to comply with the WTO’s ruling.

The United States produces about one fourth of the world’s chemicals which in 1997 amounted to about 74.6 billion dollars in exports.
Chemical sector tariff reduction is high on the US government’s agenda. Reduction of tariffs lowers prices, which in turn increases demand and therefore consumption. Greater consumption of chemicals worldwide means more chemicals ending up in the environment, in our food and in our bodies.

Annual world production of chemicals has grown from one million tons in 1930 to seven million in 1950, sixty-three million in 1970 and 500 million tons in 1990.
The list of chemicals for which trade liberalization will be sought includes tetraethyl lead, CFCs, HCFCs, vinyl-chloride, chlorinated solvents, DDT and countless other pesticides.[3]

Canada, the world’s biggest asbestos producer is currently trying to use the WTO to force Europe to import this carcinogen again. Chemicals such as tetraethyl lead, DDT and asbestos, banned in many rich countries, are still produced in or exported to developing countries where they are responsible for much death, birth defects, cancer and damage to ecosystems. ยท

The corporate agenda includes the elimination of a number of “barriers to trade” in forest products. Those so-called barriers are tools that countries use to either protect their economy or the environment, or both. For instance, import and export tariffs increase forest products’ prices and therefore lead to less consumption. Although clearly insufficient to address current overconsumption patterns, this is good for forests and bad for corporations. They are thus proposing further tariff reductions on forest products.
Even certification schemes and legislation requiring recycling and waste recovery could be seen as barriers to free trade and considered illegal. Contrary to the promised ‘trickle-down effect’ of economic growth based on international trade, the global gap between rich and poor continues to widen.
UNCTAD’s 1997 Trade and Development Report concludes that globalisation in its current form is responsible for a dramatic increase in global inequality. The share of wealth of the richest 20% percent of the population has increased in most nations since the early 1980s, at the expense of the other 80%.


1. “WTO Millennium Bug: TNC Control Over Global Trade Politics” The Corporate Europe Observer.

2. “USA: Banana Republic” by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman. http://www.igc.org/trac/corner/worldnews/other/334.html

3. “Making Sense Out of the WTO”, Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly, no. 679, Dec 9, 1999. http://www.rachel.org/bulletin/index.cfm?St=3

see also
“Early Harvest in Killer Chemicals, When Trade is Toxic”, Asia Pacific Environmental Exchange and Basel Action Network, October 1999

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