US Gets Heavy With India Over Cola Bans

15 August 2006

The uncooperative Hollywood executive in Francis Ford Coppola's masterpiece The Godfather awoke in bed alongside the newly-severed head of his favourite horse. He got the message.

A similar message has been sent by the Bush administration to Asia's second largest 'tiger economy', India, which has been less than cooperative with the US cola industry by banning its products on grounds that they contain unacceptably high levels of pesticides.

The cola ban - which affects both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo - has been imposed either partially or in totality by six of the nation's 28 states. The moves follow allegations of contamination from the Centre for Science & Environment, an influential Delhi-based non-governmental organisation.

There is more than the usual level of sensitivity toward such matters in India, where the unresolved tragedy of the poisoning of Bhopal by Union Carbide remain fresh in the memory.

But such sensitivity has not prevented US undersecretary for international trade, Franklin L Lavin - who later this year will front a trade mission to the subcontinent - from sending a horse's head equivalent to the Indian government.

Lavin reportedly got straight to the point, saying that "at a time when India is trying to attract and retain foreign investment, it would be unfortunate if the discussions were dominated by those who did not want to treat foreign companies fairly".

The US department of commerce has been inviting Indian companies from all sectors to participate in the Lavin-led US trade mission which will visit India in November and December.

Data sourced from The Times of India; additional content by WARC staff