WTO & CWB

Beginning with an article in the December 1988 issue of the Oregon Farmer-Stockman, I’ve written many articles urging support for the GATT and WTO.  An example is a column published in the Oregon Wheat Magazine in 2001.

President’s Half-Acre – Why Support WTO

I’ve never been especially interested in the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB).  However, in 1998, my support for the WTO process inadvertently got me involved in a controversy about whether the CWB was seriously harming U.S. wheat growers.

To negotiate effectively at the WTO, the U.S. President needs “trade negotiating authority” (also known as “fast track”).  During 1998, progress at the WTO was stalled because this authority had lapsed.  The U.S. Congress was debating renewal and the national wheat organizations–U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers–were withholding their support for renewal until the Clinton Administration agreed to make abolishing the CWB a higher priority.  I opposed withholding support for “fast track” because a) the vote in Congress was going to be very close and b) I believed the CWB was a minor problem compared to the EU’s export subsidies, which could be addressed only if “fast track” was passed.

The wheat growers did switch to supporting “fast track” a couple of days before the vote, but it was too late.  When I read in a WSJ article that “fast track” was defeated because five rural Congressmen failed to vote for it, I was outraged and decided I needed to do something to convince the wheat growers’ leadership that the CWB was not important enough to risk halting progress at the WTO.

The article I wrote in 1998 is:

Wheat Growers are Focusing on the Wrong Trade Issue

A shorter and perhaps better explanation is:

A Note on Wheat Growers Trade Priorities

I didn’t talk with a Canadian about these issues until the agricultural attache at the Canadian Embassy found my paper two years after it was written and called me.  I wasn’t surprised that he liked the paper and later was told at USTR that the Canadians usually brought my paper with them on visits.

After talking with the Canadian agricultural attache, I came to believe that most of the problems that the U.S. wheat industry has with the CWB could be eliminated simply by separating the export monopoly from the grain pools.  This solution is discussed in:

Curbing the Unfair Advantage of the CWB

The Australians have closed down their Australian Wheat Board thanks largely to U.S. Wheat Associates.  U.S. Wheat Associates deserves great credit for almost singlehandedly exposing the massive corruption and bribery used by the AWB to gain export sales to Iraq and South Asia.  Support for the CWB in Canada also may be waning and it may soon lose its monopoly on export sales.

Eliminating the AWB and CWB will do very little to increase U.S. wheat exports or prices.  However, the U.S. wheat farmers will benefit because our industry can refocus its attention on the trade issues that are really matter, e.g., high tariffs that are increasing our customers’ wheat production

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