Free Trade Slips on a Banana Peel

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WASHINGTON: The banana war between the U.S. and Europe is now about wine and cheese. U.S. trade officials on Tuesday threatened stiff tariffs on those European exports to America in an effort to get more Latin American bananas sold in European markets. But TIME Brussels bureau chief James Graff says Britain and France (most of the rest of Europe actually prefers the bigger, blander American bananas) are out to prove that the doctrine of free trade, like everything else, should have its exceptions.

"They feel they owe a political and economic debt to nurture their former colonies in the Caribbean, who grow their bananas," Graff says, "and they accuse the U.S. of merely carrying water for big evil corporations like Dole and Chiquita and their lobbyists." The New York Times fired a salvo in that direction Wednesday when it reported that in this instance, free trade's biggest beneficiary is a Chiquita investor who had spent the night in the Lincoln bedroom. Yeah, but who hasn't?