Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ikea's meatballs = unfair trade?

Image source: Steffan Wurzel, Wikimedia Commons
According to  Michael Freeman of TheJournal.ie, Belgian restaurateurs have launched an aggressive campaign against Ikea's low-priced meatballs. The leaders of the campaign are accusing Ikea of "dumping" the meatballs at artificially low prices that harm competition.

This is an interesting case on a number of fronts. It is the first time I have heard "dumping" used in the context of the restaurant industry. This term is more commonly associated with trade disputes involving tires, shrimp, and other traded commodities. And given that the alleged perpetrator is a foreign multinational, it brings to mind a vision of a most unusual anti-dumping dispute: imagine, for a moment, that Belgium's enraged restaurateurs won the day, and the government sought to impose some sort of special surcharge on Ikea's meatball sales. Does a forum exist at the WTO or elswhere at which the Swedes could hope to have such a dispute settled? I'm not sure.

In  the meantime, it will be interesting to see if the anti-meatball campaigners can capture public settlement. A lot of folks (myself included) have trouble saying "no" to a plate of cheap, reasonably satisfying meatballs.

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