By Steve Sprinkel
An ACRES, USA Special Edition
The current sabre-rattling in international trade over banana exports should
fool no one. This is not about bananas, nor about Cashmere apparel and
Pecorino cheese. That the Clinton Administration should now, of all times,
choose to bully-up on its best pal, Tony Blair, is a real head-scratcher. The
banana battle is not about Chiquita and Dole versus their Euro-oriented
competitors. There is a bigger war screening this little dust-up, and it seems
to this observer that it has Biotech written all over it. Let's see if this
scenario warrants any merit:
First of all, one will have to set aside any doubts about the intelligence of
US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Commerce Secretary William "
Patent" Daley. Pretend for a moment that these grand players are in full
command of their sensibilities and that they are willing, for a moment, to put
Blair's Labor government in an adversarial position over tropical fruit. Tony
Blair needs a reason to prove he is not Monsanto's, nor Bill Clinton's puppet.
For the past three weeks the UK news media has unearthed one shameful
conflict-of-interest after another within Mr. Blair's cabinet , making
London's retriever-dog relationship with Biotechnology increasingly apparent.
If I were Bill Clinton, I would like to make it seem that London does no one's
Let's see now, what do we have simmering out there in international trade?
Daimler bought Chrysler, so we can't hammer anyone over auto imports. Ditto
Ford and Volvo.The UK and US telecommunications industry is getting to be
fairly monopolized, so we're in good shape there. Rupert Murdoch is
unstoppable. Asia is off the radar. We're already making Bill Gates look bad
while Microsoft installs Windows in every cubicle. Good going on that.
Brilliant, as a matter of fact. We are so much in need of a smoke-screen
crisis, you'd wish that W.R. Hearst was still around.
Well looky here! Let's throw a tea-party and accuse the Euros of continuing
their Imperialist tendencies with their former colonies! The Royals versus Los
Freedom Fighters, Act XII. We'll get Del Monte, Dole and Chiquita to build us
The Mother of All Bananas, paint it red, white and blue, fill it full of GMOs
and shove it up against those drawn bridges in Rotterdam and Liverpool. We'll
set our folks over at New World Order, Inc.to yammering about WTO and free (
oops, fair) trade, get them pesky Southerners who embarassed us at the
Biosecurity Conference in Colombia to start complaining about their rotting
bananas, and before you know it, we'll have Round-Up-Ready Agriculture from
Pole to Pole.
Boy Heidi, all we need is some cheap ice cream. ( Hurray! Fluid milk price
drops 30% in one day!)
Charlene, if I ever saw a win-win-win, this is it. We'll make those sheep
farmers weep buckets over their cheese and sweaters moulding away dock-side,
and they'll never let those Greenpeace people back into the countryside to
pull up another sugarbeet.
Hey Mr. Tallyman, Tally-me banana!
Daylight Come, and We got GMOs!
Sixth-segment, seventh-segment, Eighth-segment: Splice!
Daylight come and we got GMOs!
Hey Mr. Shapiro, Ain't them banana splits nice!
Daylight come and we got GMO!
Only those Luddites claim its a deadly tarantula!
Economic Science-Fiction? GMO Bogey-man under my bed? We cut quickly to 10
Downing, where the Prime Minister has just concluded an urgent meeting with
Philip Lader, the US ambassador to London.
" Wimbledon? I don't know Tony, I may try to make it for the Men's Finals,
just for appearances sake, but it really depends on how this public relations
debacle over biotech plays out. God, I wish I could fire every single one of
the idiots we hand-picked for Monsanto's public policy division. Just get me a
seat far from the Prince of Wales."
"Well, Phil, the press has finally gathered outside. I suppose you should go
and "face the music" Ha!" How shall we characterize this meeting?
" Friendly" ?
"Friendly" ! No. Not on your life. This is war, Phil! Or quite nearly...Ha-Ha!
How about "cordial" ? They'll all know what we want that to mean."
Out goes the US Ambassador, where he pauses above a forest of microphones.
"Very cordial", is how he describes these intense negotiations over the
plight of the island nation's rural folk, ironically caught in a big-time
tussel over crops that neither country produces.
"The important point is that it's not about specific bananas," Lader
intones. "It's not
about retaliation, it's not about cashmere, it's about the GMOs, errr, I mean
the WTO and its regulations."
The press people all kneel in unison, despite the muddy snow.
That's right, Phil. We have to get this trade deal down once and for all.
That's the script right? " Accepted once, accepted everywhere." Maybe we can
bring back DDT.
"The friendship between our two countries is extraordinary and it's in the
context of that friendship that we are seeking an acceptable solution." Leader
But the headline said: UK GOVERNMENT ANGRY
Ooh! They were really ticked off. Why, there as at least 80 million Sterling
worth of darn good cheese and blankets at stake here. You bet they're bent!
However, that is probably equivalent to less than a week's gross income from
ag-biotech on the other side of the Pond. And if Phil, Charlene and Bill Daley
can cut a path through this green ice, we'll make an effort to promote cheese
and blankets next Christmas, what say?
UK Trade Minister Brian Wilson said: "This action will in no way help
resolve the actual dispute. The World Trade Organisation panel process,
which is in hand, offers a rapid route towards a solution.... All that we ask
is that the United States should suspend action and await the same outcomes."
Good Cop, Bad Cop.
With sabres safely back in their scabbards, all the near-combatants cast a
hopeful look towards the WTO's semi-anonymous panel of Country Club members,
who have been so thoroughly indoctrinated as to their nearly God-like power to
keep the peace and unload the ships that the outcome is foreordained. Is this
what great minds conceived in San Francisco in 1945?
Excuse me, I have to take a meeting with my polling firm and see if this is
Democracy or Plutocracy. And now, a word from out sponsors.
On the Road from Sinsinawa
With a Banjo on my Knee.
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