The proverbial hard part for Washington in this tightly refereed trade war will be to decide which products to drop from the original list of sanctioned items presented to meet a $520 million damages target. "The way they decide which items to include and which to drop is a complete mystery," says TIME senior business writer Bernard Baumohl. "There's no economic reasoning involved at all." But the immediate purpose of the sanctions may be political -- to warn Europe that Washington intends to play hardball in looming battles over hormone-laced beef and genetically altered soy beans, and to show an increasingly protectionist-minded Congress that the WTO can defend U.S. trade interests. And, as in any war, Americans may be asked to make sacrifices -- in this case, Italian cheese, Belgian waffles and Scottish cashmere.
It may take a leap of imagination to view Caribbean bananas as Slobodan Milosevic's ultimate secret weapon, but they sure are driving a wedge between the NATO countries. The World Trade Organization ruled Tuesday that the U.S. could impose sanctions on almost $200 million worth of European imports in retaliation for European Union protection of bananas grown in former colonies. While Washington called it a victory, the judgment fell far short of the $520 million damages U.S. firms claim to have suffered from those protected fruit.