Scoring points

Congressman Goodlatte, (R-Va) Chairman of the Agriculture Committee of the US House of Representatives met with the US dairy industry and representatives of other dairy industries in the “Global Dairy Alliance(link to GDA website)”: this afternoon to discuss the various proposals on agriculture.

The Congressman argued that the USA is the champion of open markets in agriculture—a proposition that is simply laughable in the case of the US dairy industry, but is more defensible in other respects. He challenged the representatives of Argentina, Brazil (as members of the G21) at the meeting to defend the G21 proposals which he described, in partial terms, as failing to support an ambitious outcome on market access. The Brazilians said that they had been consistently ‘short-changed’ by previous WTO agreements which had broad ambitions. This time, they wanted to be sure of at least one thing: an end to what they call ‘dumping’ of subsidised product in their markets (products benefiting from either domestic supports in the country of origin or export subsidies). The Argentines pointed out that the US-EU paper was a major disappointment for them and a shock that swung them behind the G21 proposals. I thought Congressman Goodlatte was rather too fast to dismiss their complaints, in which many others share. He had begun to score points off the Latins when another participant in the meeting (a New Zealand dairy farmer) pointed out that all sides claimed to want a strong market access outcome (including the US dairy industry!). This surely provided the basis for an agreement not an argument. We all tend, when discussing our place in the world to mistake “boosterism” for fact; the USA is not unique in this.  But it’s a mistake to ignore otherwise friendly voices of dissent because they often become, for want of a response, statements of active opposition.

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