The decade-long transatlantic banana dispute was not a traditional trade conflict stemming from antagonistic producers’ interests. Instead, this article argues that the banana dispute is one of the most complex illustrations of the legal and political difficulties created by the nesting and overlapping of international institutions and commitments. The contested Europe-wide banana policy was an artifact of nesting – the fruit of efforts to reconcile the single market with Lome´ obligations which then ran afoul of WTO rules. Using counter-factual analysis, this article explores how the nesting of international commitments contributed to creating the dispute, provided forum shopping opportunities which themselves complicated the options of decision-makers, and hindered resolution of what would otherwise be a pretty straightforward trade dispute. We then draw out implications from this case for the EU, an institution increasingly nested within multilateral mechanisms, and for the issue of the nesting of international institutions in general.
Two alternate visions for shaping and explaining the governance of economic globalization have been in competition for the past 20 years: an ad hoc, laissez-faire vision promoted by the United States versus a managed vision relying on multilateral rules and international organizations promoted by the European Union. Although the American vision prevailed in the past decade, the current worldwide crisis gives a new life and legitimacy to the European vision. This essay explores how this European vision, often referred to as ‘managed globalization’, has been conceived and implemented and how the rules that Europe fashioned in trade and finance actually shaped the world economy. In doing so, we highlight the paradox that managed globalization has been a force for liberalization.