Friday, April 21, 2006

The Blame Game

It was reported in Reuters recently that the European trade commissioner Mandelson blames the impasse in the current WTO negotiations on-who else?-the Americans. This comes with a twist that separates it from the more common America bashing that is the European's favorite way of entertaining himself when all else fails and Le Figaro has already been used to wrap last week's salmon.

What Mr. Mandelson is objecting to is the United States proposal that would cut agricultural subsidies in half. Mr. Mandelson says that such a thing would make farming impossible in Europe. He points to Brazil and India, two of the group that is pressing the more developed world to reduce or eliminate farm subsidies as the worst offenders in their tariff structure that discriminates against imported manufactured goods such as automobiles and chemicals.

What Mr. Mandelson does not seem to want to face up to is that farm subsidies of the "get paid under the table or off the books" kind we've got in Europe and the U.S. do keep world market prices artificially low for some commodities, with the result that small farmers in underdeveloped parts of the world cannot make back the cost of production on their product.

We often joke cynically about it here that this fellow or that one is "farming the government". The same holds true for the European farmers whether they are people like Jose Bove or not.

It's time to fairly give farmers in the developing world the ability to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, as it says in the Book. That much is only right. And the way to do that is to wean farmers in the US and in Europe off the government teat.


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