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Another Future Is Possible
With liberalisation of the global banana market and more intense price competition, it has become increasingly difficult for small producers to survive, while large intensive
operations which can keep costs down by paying particularly poor wages and
disregarding environmental controls tend to be favoured. Consequently, if the aim of governance should be to manage the planet sustainably, then current patterns of governance are clearly failing.
This paper will concentrate on those producers, exporters, importers, consumers and other agencies which participate in the dominant multilateral system of world banana trade. As this represents the truly global system of trade, it is appropriate to focus on this block when considering global governance.
Consequently this paper will will not cover all banana production but will cover only that part of it which contributes to world trade. Where exporting and importing countries participate in world trade, it is appropriate to consider both how existing systems of governance work and also how they might be improved. This paper will therefore focus on all those countries
The main motors for the global banana trade are essentially destructive and that pitted against these dynamic and powerful forces are a series of largely individual, fragmented, uncoordinated, occasionally mis-conceived and often under-funded countervailing systems of governance which are left with the essentially thankless task of resisting, with various degrees of success, the negative impacts of a system, whose intrinsic character is destructive to the environment and people. Disturbingly, although some of these countervailing systems do achieve tangible successes, the overall impression is that they are fighting a losing battle in which the daily realities of life in most banana growing areas are continuously worsening, both for banana workers themselves and for the populations who live around them.
In summary, in the context of highly competitive and concentrated retail markets and in
the context of chronic global oversupply of bananas, the effect of the system of
governance embodied in the WTO is to fuel a race to the bottom, in which producers who
pay the worst wages and adopt the least environmental standards will, in the absence of
countervailing measures and systems of governance, destroy any attempts to develop
environmentally more sustainable and more socially just systems of production.
This paper shows some alternative proposals to the current world banana trade governance, among them, at long term: a) Imposing different tariffs on importers according to the sustainability of their production systems; b) An International Banana Agreement; c) The Development of Universal Standards. The paper deals also with the eventuality of a multi-stakeholder process and some possible strategies concerning the actors involved in the world banana trade, namely governments, civil society organisations, bussiness, individuals inside of some of these structures, consumers, and trade unions.