Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Before we get too frothy over the United States' loss over its cotton subsidies in the WTO last month:
Most worrisome to U.S. trade officials: The WTO apparently rejected their argument that U.S. subsidies should be considered legal as long as they are intended for such purposes as land conservation, environmental protection, disaster relief, and so on. Brazil successfully argued that such aid allowed cotton farmers in the U.S. to cut prices 61% below the cost of production. As a result, Brazilian cotton growers lost $600 million in sales. "The U.S. was trying to get off on a technicality, but this ruling says that won't work," observes Ben Lilliston, an analyst with the Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy.
While the left is rightly celebrating the major blow against one of the biggest corporate welfare programs in the Global North, at the same time they had damn well better be careful that they aren't eliminating every ability of Northern governments to regulate their rural and agricultural sectors at the same time. Subsidizing ADM to produce ethanol is certainly a raw deal, but do we want to surrender the entire Conservation Reserve Program, disaster relief programs, and any hope of multifunctionality in agriculture as well? In case you're wondering, the correct answer is "Hell no!".

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