Diplomacy that failed with cheese and biscuits

THE LIST of products selected by the United States includes everything but the kitchen sink: sweaters, biscuits, bed linen, candles and pecorino cheese.

The sad story of how pecorino cheese made it to the list tells a lot about the miserable background to the dispute, which represents a failure of diplomacy on both sides of the Atlantic going back a decade. When the US decided to retaliate for what it saw as European obduracy, it wanted a list that covered each European Union country, and which would cost Europe as much as the banana rules cost American companies.

It picked easily identifiable products so that individual companies would be hurt badly, scream at their governments and pressure them to back off from defending bananas. The argument is simple: who has most political clout in Britain, the banana importers or Pringle sweaters?

Some countries were excluded, since their governments were favourable to the US arguments. The Germans, Danes and Dutch all prefer the bigger and cheaper "dollar" bananas over the Caribbean varieties.

The US tactic is one of divide and conquer.

When it came to finding a Greek product, the only thing that came readily to mind was feta cheese, according to The Wall Street Journal.

So on to the list went sheep's cheese, which dragged in a small group of Italian producers of pecorino, a toothsome hard cheese that goes particularly well with a few slices of pear and some walnuts. Bananas, it has to be said, would not complement pecorino.

So without further ado, the pecorino producers found themselves in the middle of a trade war. Embarrassingly for the US, The Wall Street Journal discovered that among the main producers for export was a small farm in the Mugello region near Florence, which is also a shelter for abused children.

The US banana industry had ended up by harming 60 disturbed children, whose only crime had been to produce a dairy product. But then in the tough world of interna- tional trade, that is just hard cheese.

And so, every EU country had something put against it: sweaters from Britain, handbags from France, Parma ham from Italy and so on.

This is a tried and trusted technique, adopted by the US in many other trade wars: the great frozen chicken war, the pasta conflict, and other historic battle honours sewn on the banners of the United States trade representative.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'