Monthly Archives: January 2009

Export subsidies: there they go again

Demon­strat­ing, once again, its cyn­i­cal regard for the let­ter of its oblig­a­tions, the EC Com­mis­sion has decid­ed to rein­state dairy export sub­si­dies that are primed to lock-in the low world dairy prices that are alleged­ly their ratio­nale.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has announced plans to arti­fi­cial­ly boost prices by buy­ing up 139,000 tonnes of diary prod­ucts at a cost to the pub­lic purse of £237 mil­lion. From March 1 until the end of August, the EU will become the own­er of 30,000 tonnes of but­ter and 109,000 tonnes of skimmed pow­der milk, paid for at above mar­ket cost to sup­port the dairy indus­try. The EU is has also agreed to begin new export sub­si­dies for Euro­pean but­ter, milk pow­der and but­teroil.” extract from UK Tele­graph

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p>The Com­mu­ni­ty will offer €200 sub­si­dies on skim-milk pow­der, for exam­ple, when world prices are about €1300 (a 15% sub­sidy!).

Twenty-five years

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Ok, so it real­ly was not the rea­son 1984 “wasn’t like ‘1984‘”. But the Mac­in­tosh has been more than a foot­note in the his­to­ry of design and, pos­si­bly, ideas. For one thing, one of my favorite works— Doug Hofstadter’s ‘Le Ton Beau de Marot’ (for some nice reviews see this)—was craft­ed on a Mac and prob­a­bly could not have been writ­ten in any oth­er way. Sim­i­lar­ly, Hofstadter’s ‘Flu­id Con­cepts and Cre­ative Analo­gies’, one of the finest books I know on the chal­lenge of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence.

Now it’s a competition

The French gov­ern­ment said on Tues­day that it would ear­mark up to euro;6bn ($7.8bn, pound;5.5bn) to a res­cue plan for its car indus­try hit by plung­ing demand, the cred­it crunch and a decline in competitiveness.“nbsp;nbsp;from: Finan­cial Times

Every new bailout deval­ues the last by increas­ing pro­duc­tion of cars that need tax­pay­er fund­ing.

Agricultural incentives database

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Prof Kym Ander­son was one of the speak­ers at the Decem­ber work­shop for the ‘Alter­nate Frame­works’ project. He pre­sent­ed some results from a ground-break­ing World Bank study he led in 2006–2008 to mea­sure dis­tor­tions to agri­cul­tur­al incen­tives in sev­en­ty-five coun­tries over the past 50 years.

One great pub­lic ben­e­fit of this project is that it pro­vides, for the first time, com­pre­hen­sive, con­sis­tent, esti­mates of key pol­i­cy vari­ables, prices, pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion data across a large slice of glob­al agri­cul­ture (75 coun­tries, 76 prod­ucts) over a long peri­od of time (50 years). Prof Ernesto Valen­zuela cre­at­ed a data­base of the esti­mat­esthat any­one can down­load from the World­Bank site. It is cur­rent­ly in the form of huge Excel spread­sheet (45000 rows, 81 columns) which is, unfor­tu­nate­ly, not very easy to use.

I’ve now con­vert­ed the data from this project to a more use­able SQL for­mat and built an web-inter­face to help you find data that inter­ests you. You could just hit the but­ton near the top of the col­umn to the right, or click here… or you might want to keep read­ing, to learn more about what you can find in the data.

The Doha endgame

Some good advice from Claude Barfield

“It is time to step back and build polit­i­cal sup­port for a lim­it­ed, scaled-down con­clu­sion to the Doha Round and then plot a course for the long-term sur­vival of the mul­ti­lat­er­al sys­tem and the WTO.”  from The Doha endgame and the future of the WTO (on VoxEU)

In my view (see the annex to this paper (pdf, 600kb), slight­ly mod­i­fied Uruguay Round ‘modal­i­ties’ for agri­cul­ture and NAMA could be quick­ly agreed and would, at least, dent the high lev­els of bound-rate ‘over­hand’ and ‘water’ in the bound tar­iff. These rep­re­sent a sort of moral dan­ger dur­ing times of reces­sion.