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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