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Banana trade war threatens software sector

UK politician warns

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The banana trade war could spread to the UK software industry, a leading UK politician warns. John Redwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said: "The last thing we want now is a trade war with America, which could spiral out of control, and damage more of our businesses." Speaking at the opening of new offices in Wokingham for high-tech networking company, DCA Ltd, Redwood said: "Pullovers are already at risk. Please don't threaten our software industry. I urge the Government to use whatever influence it has in both Brussels and Washington to get the threat lifted." A keeper of the Thatcherite flame, this Conservative politician is known as the Vulcan, on account of his remarkably pointy ears. Redwood can be characterised with a not terribly broad brush as anti-European (Union) and very pro-American. The man has never been noted for his compassion for the less fortunate sectors of society, but he is famously clever. However his fear for the future of the UK's puny software industry looks way off beam. There is no way this dispute is escalating into the hi-tech sector. Take a look at most places in Europe where computer companies cluster -- along the Thames Valley, in Scotland's Silicon Glen, Munich, Paris, Dublin and Amsterdam/Rotterdam -- and you will see the tenants with the biggest HQs, warehouses and assembly plants are American-domiciled. The US is the dominant force in computer technology. Its industry giants are ardent proponents of globalisation and have become Europe's de facto computer industry giants. The World Trade Organisation, convenes for an emergency meeting tomorrow (March 8), to consider the latest spiral in the fruity battle between America and the European Union.(See also Hands off our bananas]. The EU, which requested the meeting, slammed the US for taking 'irresponsible unilateral action' in imposing punitive 100 per cent tariffs on a range of European goods. British exports will be worst affected, by the US action, which is designed to force Europe to remove minimum quotas on banana imports from the Caribbean. US banana companies say this freezes them out of the European market. If the EU escalates the banana trade war, it will seek to impose sanctions where only America jobs get hurt. Few American jobs depend on growing bananas. This is why, the AFL-CIO, America's union grouping, wants its own government to back down. When Redwood talks of pullovers he is referring to Scotland's cashmere-knit industry. Based in the Scottish Borders, a region that has done little harm to anyone since it gave up cattle raiding a few centuries back, the cashmere industry is bemused and scared by the US government's decision to include it on the banana retaliation lists. More than 2,000 jobs are at risk. The banana trade war is a tribute to the lobbying influence of the US banana barons. Never forget that Chiquita - formerly United Fruit - persuaded the CIA in the 1950s to overthrow a democratically elected government in Guatemala. ®

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