National Farmers' Federation

Leading on trade must be Obama’s tonic for recession ills

“GLOBAL trade reform probably isn’t occupying much of the new President’s thoughts, but it should,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie mused as America’s 44th President was sworn in early this morning (Australian time).
“With world economies in freefall and the international food crisis ever-present, leading the charge in trade reform to open up markets could be a key element to solve many of his biggest Presidential headaches.
“The Doha Round of trade reform has repeatedly broken down due to a lack of political will of key players, including the European Union, the United States and big developing countries such as India. Such inaction this week opened the door for the EU to blunder its way into the global meltdown by re-instating export subsidies for its dairy producers.
“It’s a retrograde, knee-jerk move that makes a mockery of their G20 rhetoric late last year to fast-track trade liberalisation, and only compounds the garbled economic signals besetting world markets as countries attempt to correct the economic downturn.
“President Obama has a unique opportunity to do what no other US leader has ever done… lead the way on trade reform. In doing so, drag delinquent nations back to the World Trade Organisation to wrap up Doha and eliminate trade distorting barriers once-and-for-all.
“Breaking down the artificial barriers of tariffs, subsidies and quotas would be a fillip to economies the world over – including the floundering US economy – giving new impetus to world markets.
“At the same time, it would enable farmers across the world to appropriately respond to, and meet, the global food shortage. Ironically, in the current world trade environment, farmers who can produce more food are actively prevented from doing so due to antiquated policies steeped in protectionist dogma.
“Like many people watching the inauguration this morning and considering the unprecedented problems the new President faces, I thought “who’d want to be Barack Obama?” Then I thought again, this President – like no world leader before him – has the opportunity, and mandate, to make sweeping changes.
“President Obama has the chance few have had. The expectations are enormous, but so are the rewards. We would strongly urge the new President to be bold and lead from the front on trade reform.”

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