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.