Global trade advocacy offers huge commercial returns

Con­sid­ered as a mar­ket­ing invest­ment glob­al trade advo­ca­cy pro­duces unbeat­able ROI. Even small busi­ness and trade asso­ci­a­tions in some of the world’s poor­est economies have recent­ly won changes in glob­al mar­kets worth bil­lions of dol­lars in future returns for an invest­ment of a small frac­tion of one per­cent of that sum. If you’re still won­der­ing whether to take any inter­est in the “painful progress”:http://www.inquit.com/article/446/doha-round-negotiations-trouble-or-travail of glob­al trade talks, here’s a few point­ers to the mega-buck cam­paigns that have been tak­ing place behind your back The deci­sions of the U.S. Pres­i­dent and EU Com­mis­sion to cut sub­si­dies to “cotton”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4652991.stm and to “sugar”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4494373.stm farm­ers are impor­tant mile­stones for the reform of world agri­cul­tur­al mar­kets. But they are even more remark­able for their demon­stra­tion of the extra­or­di­nary lever­age that the WTO trad­ing sys­tem offers busi­ness­es that under­stand how to work the trad­ing sys­tem. Although it has been accused by NGOs and US Pres­i­dents alike of being opaque and unre­spon­sive to the needs of cit­i­zens, it turns out that even small busi­ness­es from the world’s poor­est economies can secure com­mer­cial­ly valu­able vic­to­ries in WTO. The US response to Brazil’s suc­cess in the cot­ton case in part responds to advo­ca­cy efforts on behalf of West African farm­ers from coun­tries such as Benin, Burk­i­na Faso and Mali. Their 2002 “Cot­ton Initiative”:http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/agric_e/negs_bkgrnd20_cotton_e.htm, also aimed at the US poli­cies, pro­vid­ed the ral­ly­ing point for the devel­op­ing coun­tries who “called a halt”:http://www.inquit.com/article/165/why-it-ended-without-finishing to the 2003 Can­cún Min­is­te­r­i­al Meet­ing of WTO. A more detailed account of the cot­ton cam­paign is con­tained in “Glob­al Trade Advocate”:http://www.petergallagher.com.au/iqebooks/ Both the African and Brazil­ian farm­ers will enjoy an aston­ish­ing return on their invest­ments in the cot­ton cam­paign. Brazil “claimed”:http://docsonline.wto.org:80/DDFDocuments/t/G/AG/GEN54.doc that the US cot­ton sub­si­dies had cost it $600 mil­lion in one year (2001) alone. The ben­e­fits to the West African economies are “estimated”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/4095032.stm to be about $250 mil­lion every year.  Such num­bers should be treat­ed cau­tious­ly. Brazil and Africa would not be the only ben­e­fi­cia­ries of high­er cot­ton price. The sup­ply response of oth­er pro­duc­ers and the frag­men­ta­tion of the “world mar­ket for cot­ton lint”:http://r0.unctad.org/infocomm/anglais/cotton/chain.htm makes reli­able esti­mates dif­fi­cult. But even at a con­ser­v­a­tive dis­count rate, tak­ing account of the risks involved, an incre­ment to income for the four orig­i­nal African com­plainants of $800 mil­lion every year for (say) a decade rep­re­sents a thou­sand-fold return on the cost of offi­cials’ time, exec­u­tives’ time and the fees of lawyers and eco­nom­ic mod­el­ers. No oth­er mar­ket­ing invest­ment by firms can match it. Tomor­row … the Sug­ar sto­ry

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