I’ve always felt that a key point in understanding the European Union’s bilateral relations with third world countries, is knowing the Bananas I-III conflicts at the WTO (World Trade Organisation Dispute Settlement Body). In essence, Ecuador and the US felt that the EU was discriminating their bananas by applying favourable terms for banana imports from former colonial areas. They were right, and the EU admitted, and afterwards 13 years of conflicts over the size of damages have ensued. Right now, there is again conflict since the EU failed to conclude new agreements which would have allowed for the preferential treatment with their former satellites. Why? Well, in many cases it is because former commissioner for trade Peter Mandelsson pushed a line in those negotiations that was slightly too favourable towards intellectual property rights holder. The SADCs refuse to be co-operative, for instance, and I would wager the reason might be that the agreement the EU has proposed to SADC resembles the CARIFORUM agreement signed last year. As opposed to the CARIFORUM states, the SADCs aren’t really dependent on tourism from the EU so perhaps they are not as dependent on making concessions.
Anyway, I thought of this today since a Swedish filmmaker may end up permanently unable to release a movie in the US concerning bananas because of a defamation case filed against him by banana distributor Dole. It is, of course, unrelated to international trade, but very related to international relations. The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative touches on the issue of use of libel/defamation laws to limit freedom of speech or expressing opinions. Libel/defamation/general lies claims are very common methods of oppressing freedom of speech all over the world. I haven’t seen the Swedish Pirate Party touch the issue yet (and am right now uncertain of whether or not it wants to), perhaps because there is no need to in Sweden: it is quite difficult to make frivolous lawsuits in Sweden. Except when it comes to copyright, of course. But PP is working to change that, at least.