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Corporate Versus National Interest in U.S. Trade Policy: Chiquita and Caribbean Bananas
Corporate Versus National Interest in U.S. Trade Policy: Chiquita and Caribbean Bananas
By Richard Bernal
283 pp, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020
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In the late 1990s, Chiquita Brands induced the Clinton administration to pressure the European Union to abandon trade preferences that favored banana imports from small eastern Caribbean economies. Chiquita sought to open European markets to its bananas, grown elsewhere in Latin America. In this well-documented polemic, Bernal, who was Jamaica’s ambassador to the United States at the time, argues that Chiquita’s lavish donations to U.S. politicians shaped U.S. policymaking: Why else would the U.S. government take up Chiquita’s cause, since the United States itself grew few bananas? Bernal recognizes but downplays other drivers of U.S. policy, such as the distaste for colonial-era trade preferences and the competing interests of Latin American banana exporters. U.S. policymakers also worried that the Caribbean countries would avoid developing new export-oriented industries so long as they could rely on bananas. But the Clinton administration’s efforts on behalf of Chiquita had real consequences. The banana industries of the eastern Caribbean collapsed, and as Bernal warned, drug trafficking increased. In the years since, some of the islands, less confident of U.S. support, have embraced Chinese trade and development offerings. Bernal faults the United States for not giving more weight to its national security interests in these small, vulnerable island economies.