Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Subsidizing hypocrisy

We are absolute hypocrites in this country. We trumpet the virtues of free trade and open markets, demanding that developing nations give us access to their markets and insisting that free trade policy will only do them good. Meanwhile, we continue to subsidize agriculture in this country to an alarming extent (only to be outdone by the European Union). The Doha WTO trade round collapsed because of this. This is entirely the fault of developed nations. An astute commenter addresses this in his WaPo op-ed today:

"In the end, however, no trade agenda will succeed if we don't address agricultural subsidies in the United States. We cannot afford to let Doha's failure become an excuse to reauthorize subsidy programs in next year's farm bill. Subsidies and quotas shift more costs to American consumers and put us at a disadvantage when negotiating trade deals.

The worst thing about farm subsidies is not that they're wasteful -- though they are -- it's that they devastate the export sectors, the engines of growth, in developing nations. It makes zero sense to wipe out the benefits of U.S. foreign assistance in order to keep paying our farmers to be inefficient. Overcoming the resistance of the agricultural lobby, which has received these subsidies for decades, demands a concerted effort and will require leadership from President Bush as well as U.S. businesses. We will also need to hear from advocates of the world's poor."

Who wins with agri-subsidies? Agri-business. Archer-Daniels-Midland. Who loses? All of us. Not to mention those in developing countries who could farm cotton, soy, corn, etc. and sell it at a profit on the world market if it weren't for our distorting subsidies.

We extol the virtues of capitalism and the free market while maintaining these anachronistic subsidies. This is hypocrisy, and the future of free and fair trade depend on change. C'mon, Repugs- you for whom free markets are almost sexually enticing. Live up to your word and change this. The rest of the world is waiting.