UK Tories on a crooked path to protectionism?

I realise that opposition politicians have to say all things to all persons and jump on any bandgwagon that’s going on, but I must say that I found an interview with Nick Herbert, the shadow Defra secretary, in Farmers Weekly a bit disappointing. It remains to be seen whether the MP for Arundel and South Downs will be Defra secretary in David Cameron’s Conservative government, or even whether Defra will remain in his present form. However, if his thinking is typical of that in the shadow cabinet on agriculture and food matters, it’s a bit worrying. It looks as if we could be lurching back towards productionism.… Read the rest

Return of the butter mountain

It was the recession of the 1930s that ushered in agricultural protectionism and subsidies, not least in the United States. Now the European Union has reverted to two of its old favourite policy instruments: intervention buying and export subsidies in the dairy sector just when we thought we had seen the last of them. Stocks of butter disappeared completely in 2007.

Faced with a drastic drop in dairy prices, the EU is to buy 30,000 tons of butter at a guaranteed price. Over three times as much skimmed milk powder is to be purchased – 109,000 tons. In addition, export subsidies will be given to skimmed milk powder, butter, butter oil and cheese.… Read the rest

Food safety rules as protection or protectionism?

SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary standards) barriers figured prominently in the final Agricultural Council of 2008 under the French Presidency. Agricultural Ministers agreed Council Conclusions on the safety of imported agricultural and agri-food products and compliance with Community rules. At the same meeting, EU Farm Ministers rejected a Commission proposal to allow the use of antimicrobial substances to treat poultry carcasses, which would have re-opened the Community market to US imports. Is there a danger that food safety protection becomes an excuse for protectionism?

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Dairy quota row highlights industry divisions

Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel’s proposal for five annual dairy quota increases of 1 per cent each, adopted unchanged by farm ministers, is under attack from two sides. The Commission believes that this is a sure sign that it has negotiated a fair middle path through a morass of conflicting objectives. A less charitable interpretation would be that the needs of an internationally competitive industry have been partially sacrificed to those of marginal farmers with political clout.… Read the rest

Do-ha, So-wha’?

The internet silence following the collapse of the Doha Round on 30 July last has been striking. It appears not only the negotiators but also the commentators feel the need for a well-earned August break. In a piece for last Sunday’s Irish Sunday Business Post, I tried to summarise my own views on why the Round collapsed.… Read the rest

Do-ha, So-wha'?

The internet silence following the collapse of the Doha Round on 30 July last has been striking. It appears not only the negotiators but also the commentators feel the need for a well-earned August break. In a piece for last Sunday’s Irish Sunday Business Post, I tried to summarise my own views on why the Round collapsed.… Read the rest

The CAP's ambiguous face to the outside world

The description of a Fortress Europe has often been applied to the CAP. But just as the CAP has undergone significant internal reform since the first faltering steps under Commissioner MacSharry in 1992, there have also been substantial changes to the CAP’s external trade regime. The EU still maintains high tariffs on specific agricultural imports, but in fact the majority of the EU’s agricultural imports (including here fish as well as highly processed products like beverages and tobacco products) enter the EU duty-free, either because the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff is zero, or because the EU has granted duty-free preferential access.… Read the rest

The CAP’s ambiguous face to the outside world

The description of a Fortress Europe has often been applied to the CAP. But just as the CAP has undergone significant internal reform since the first faltering steps under Commissioner MacSharry in 1992, there have also been substantial changes to the CAP’s external trade regime. The EU still maintains high tariffs on specific agricultural imports, but in fact the majority of the EU’s agricultural imports (including here fish as well as highly processed products like beverages and tobacco products) enter the EU duty-free, either because the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff is zero, or because the EU has granted duty-free preferential access.… Read the rest