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BBC News' James Reynolds reports on the importance of the banana trade in Ecuador
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Tuesday, 27 July, 1999, 16:16 GMT
World trade wars

The world is at war again - over trade. Governments and producers squabble over beef, bananas, steel and other goods. Once again some countries try to 'protect' their faltering industries behind trade barriers.

BBC News Online takes a look at the dangers facing the world economy.

Free trade in peril
Trade disputes have a habit of turning into bitter conflicts. Most times, both sides lose out.
To prevent such frictions, 134 countries have agreed on trading rules and joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to mediate disputes. But the WTO's authority is under threat.

  • WTO, the global trade cop
  • A history of free trade
  • Is the WTO up to its job?
  • The US arsenal of trade war weapons

    The beef war
    Is beef from cattle reared using growth hormones safe for human consumption? The EU says no, blocking all imports. The United States says this amounts to protectionism. The WTO has now allowed the US to impose sanctions worth $116m - far less than the original US demands of up to $900m. The next trade war is about to break out.

  • How safe is hormone-treated beef?
  • US hits EU, spares UK in beef war (19 July)
  • WTO slashes US damage claims (12 July)
  • US beef gets six-month reprieve (14 June)
  • WTO approves US sanctions (3 June)
  • US demands sanctions in EU beef row (13 May)
  • Cancer scare over US beef (4 May)
  • Banana war spreads to beef (4 May)
  • New Atlantic trade war looms (25 April)

    The leadership battle
    For three months the WTO was without a leader, as member countries squabbled over who should be the organisation's next director general. After a contest sullied by accusations of mudslinging, the two candidates, New Zealand's Mike Moore or Thailand's Supachai Panitchpakdi, agreed to share the job, but the WTO's reputation suffered from the dispute.

  • In profile: Mike Moore
  • In profile: Supachai Panitchpakdi
  • 'Breakthrough' on world trade leadership (18 July)
  • Move to break WTO deadlock (16 July)
  • WTO job share plan (29 June)
  • Attempt to end WTO deadlock fails (16 June)
  • WTO race gets personal (9 May)
  • Emergency talks at WTO (6 May)
  • WTO leadership battle escalates (2 May)

    The banana war
    The US government scored an important victory over the European Union when the WTO agreed that Caribbean banana producers were getting preferential treatment from the EU. The US retaliated swiftly with half a billion dollars worth of tariffs.

  • Ecuador, caught in the banana war (14 May)
  • Scottish cashmere jobs saved (9 April)
  • Europe will 'comply' with banana ruling (7 April)
  • Banana war exposes old trade divisions (5 March)
  • Bananas split trading giants (4 March)

    The steel war
    The devaluation of the Asian currencies last year led to a flood of cheap steel in world markets. Japanese steel exports to the US surged a massive 400% last year - causing an outcry among hard-pressed American steel manufacturers. Washington wants WTO action.


  • US, Russia sign steel deal (13 July)
  • Setback for US steelmakers (22 June)
  • US-Japan steel war escalates (11 June)
  • Steel industry plays hardball (7 June)

    Other global trade tensions...
  • Argentina and Brazil square up on trade (27 July)
  • Green light for US trade policy (14 July)
  • Oz fury at US lamb ban (9 July)
  • US on the trade warpath
  • Rising yen leads to trade tensions
  • Record trade surplus for Japan

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