“Trade hypocrisy: the problem with Robert Zoellick,” by Kevin Watkins, from

“Nothing better illustrates the double standard of current US trade policy than agriculture. Consider the case of cotton. In 2001, the US Commodity Credit Corporation spent $4 billion subsidising the income of cotton producers, a fraternity comprising some 25,000 corporate farms in California, Texas, Mississippi and elsewhere. “Given that the world market value of the cotton crop was slightly over $3 billion, one might question whether the Bush administration’s farm policies owe more to the principles of Bolshevik state planning or the market principles espoused by Zoellick. But as the world’s largest cotton exporter, domestic subsidies in America have global consequences. According to the International Cotton Advisory Committee, they lowered world prices by around one-quarter, reinforcing the deepest and most protracted depression in world cotton markets since the Great Depression. “Skip from the subsidy fest in Texas to West Africa and you can see the results. The latter is a region where some 11 million households depend on cotton cultivation for their livelihoods, and where cotton is a crucial source of foreign exchange and government revenue. At a conservative estimate, it lost some $200 million in 2001 as a direct consequence of American farm subsidies.”

Posted January 3, 2003

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