Sunday, September 14, 2003

Beyond the Protestors

Certainly the WTO and globalization issues are very complex, and many people see serious problems with them. Because there are so many complex issues involved it is hard to really understand what is going at any one time. The recent meeting in Cancun focused a great deal on farm subsidies, which the U.S. and EU spend millions of dollars on in order to prop up domestic farming. As a result, developing nations, many of which rely on only a handful of industries for their entire economy, are unable to sell their products. The problem is that politicians are always going to support their constituents before they think about the farmers in another country (Tom Daschle gets re-elected because he is a big provider of subsidies for farming, which in South Dakota is just about all they have). What needs to be done is for a majority of politicians to recognize that the support of one industry may be harming others, as well as their own constituents. The argument needs to be framed in economic terms, ones that show that it is out own best interest to stop giving billions to our farmers. Of course that is easier said than done, but it may get better results than showing up with a sign with a cathy slogan every so often and screaming and yelling.

The rich world's agricultural policies deserve to be put to the sword. America, for example, spends almost $4 billion each year on cotton subsidies alone. This government largesse has turned America, an expensive cotton producer, into a leading cotton exporter. The subsidies are not just a burden on American taxpayers; they also helped to halve world cotton prices between 1997 and 2002, according to the Financial Times. ... If America's agricultural policies are bad, the EU's are worse. Its common agricultural policy (CAP) is a standing insult to economic intelligence. But it has been standing so long, the insult may have lost some of its sting. It is, then, worth repeating its perverse logic. | The Cancun trade talks

But there is the argument that the WTO and NAFTA may be fatally flawed. This was brought up in the Democratic debate in New Mexico - the issue that if there is a dispute over, say an environmental regulation, and it is shown to be an impediment to trade, than it gets overturned. This is an incredibly foolish and dangeous concept. If this cannot be changed, than the focus should be on elimination instead of reform.

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